Credit: Illustrations by Kyle T. Webster

For six months now, Don’t Be Silent a blog dedicated to giving “the women of DC a place to speak up about their ordeals with street harassment” has been—-uh—-silent. The blog, whose author was interviewed for an engrossing Washington City Paper cover story (“Nice Ass!” by Joe Eaton) on catcalling, ground to a halt in March. It’s a development that makes it tough for the site to help the innocent-if-hot stand up against the creepy-if-desperate, as it once hoped to: “I’m sick and tired of the loser men on the streets feeling like they can get away with this shit. It’s up to all of us to make a stand,” the blog’s author states in her introduction post.

According to her final blog entry, “A Tough Decision,” the activist—-identified only as D. Howard in that aforementioned CP article—-has put the brakes on her project partly because of personal reasons, partly because of (what else?) harassment, this time from the commenters

“Someone can have a post linked on DC Blogs about a nice walk in the park but get no reactions, but anytime DBS is linked everyone has something to say,” Howard laments.

At particular issue, it seems, is the blowback the writer endured after posting an account of a morning conflict she had, not with a random perv, but with a group of loud, trash-talking teenagers on a Metrobus. “The reactions to ‘Rowdy Teens Attack on Morning Commute‘ have been mixed—-mostly on the side of ‘What is wrong with you?’ It got to the point when I wasn’t even reading the responses anymore. I was blindly pressing ‘publish.'”

The post beins: “I was not expecting to come to blows with rowdy kids on my morning commute to work today” and continues:

I waited for the 80 bus towards Kennedy Center at around 9:20 this morning. The bus came at approximately 9:30. I normally sit near the front of the bus, but I couldn’t find an available seat. I sit near the back near the rear exit, and three rowdy teens—-a boy and two girls—-were sitting in the back making all sorts of noise. It was their “typical friendly” conversation—-calling people “n***a,” showing schadenfreude at their “friends” getting hit with balls in gym class, and other profanitites[sic]and obscenities. It’s only five minutes to the train station, I thought to myself. I’ll live. But I couldn’t. The more these kids spoke vulgar and cruel words, the more riled up I got. When the boy started saying “Dick. D-I-C-K. Dickdickdickdickdickdick. . .” I had lost my cool.

Believing she’s completely in the right, at the conclusion of her story, Howard supplies her readers with descriptions of the rowdy adolescents. “Like I learned from the workshop, do whatever you can to get a description of perpetrators—-like I did—-and spread the word. It’ll make it easier to prevent them from doing this again. But some of her readers just don’t get why Howard reacted the way she did.

“You were upset with kids cursing and being rowdy,” reads one comment, “so you resort to cursing and provoking them further?! Yeah, that’s mature. Way to take the high road. In the future, choose your battles more wisely.”

As DBS is no more, looks like Howard has taken that advice to heart.

“I’m going to step back into the background,” she writes. “Like someone told me, there are quieter and less dangerous ways of trying to change the world, and that’s what I want to do.”

(City Paper illustration by Kyle T. Webster)

—-Rend Smith

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