Friday, I was out for a walk when a man exposed himself to me. Immediately after that happened I had a disappointing interaction with the police who didn’t want to take a report when I tried to offer one. With the other options exhausted, I sent an email to their general query address and then immediately posted it on my blog to keep the pressure up. Here is an update:
Due to a great woman I didn’t even know (!) on Twitter reposting the story on a neighborhood police listserv, I was contacted Sunday by the police and was able to file a report. Huge success. I want to take this moment to thank the Twitter feminist community for prodding me into action almost right away. Without your encouragement, I’m not sure I would have moved forward so quickly (and felt the duty to keep going when the police started giving me bad answers).
I also want to acknowledge what posting this story did, because I’m more disturbed than when this whole disgusting subculture first flashed in my face. I heard over, and over, and over from people I know that don’t necessarily get into the feminist work I do. The number of women I know, many of them who were girls at the time, who have experienced a man exposing himself somewhere in a public space is overwhelming. It is far greater than I would have suspected.
This leads me to put in a plug for a great local group, and a great national group, working to fight street harassment. At the local level here in Washington, D.C., Collective Action for Safe Spaces is just amazing. They have recently succeeded in working with Metro to put policies in place for harassment awareness and reporting on public transit. If you know how long it takes to get an escalator replaced around here, it’s nothing short of amazing they drove this culture change. At the national level, Hollaback! is a non-profit working to end street harassment. It has sprung up groups around the world, one of which is the local group just mentioned. Bonus: Both are largely led by younger feminists (love that stuff). If you are interested in engaging further with this issue I urge you check out these links.
So here are my top three takeaways from the incident:
- Gratitude for the online feminist community, both as a support system as well as a means to making a needed action occur. Thank you.
- A preach! If something happens to you that’s not right, speak up. It works.
- Anger and awareness: The experience of street harassment and exposure is worse than I imagined. I’m ready to keep pushing.
Final Public Service Announcement: If persons expose themselves to you, make sure you’re safe and then call 911 right away.