Chinatown-International District residents avoid coming out at night due to safety concerns. • Photo by Travis Quezon
Chinatown-International District residents avoid coming out at night due to safety concerns. • Photo by Travis Quezon

Four is the number of times I’ve been sexually harassed in the last week. One is the number of times someone has touched my body without my permission. Seven is the number of blocks I walk to and from work. When I first returned to Seattle, strange men would yell lewd sexual comments as they drive by or walk past me. These incidences are not isolated and occur with alarming frequency.

Multiple friends of mine have expressed their concern for my safety—hoping I would finally purchase mace or a Taser. Other friends have offered me rides even though I live seven blocks away from work. I count myself lucky to have such thoughtful and caring friends. But it dawned on me that they have also experienced sexual harassment or even assault. So what’s the difference?

What’s the difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault? 

Sexual harassment, which includes acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination that violates and is prohibited by federal and state laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. If you are experiencing sexual harassment, the decision to report sexual harassment and/or seek help is very personal and complex. Seek support as soon as you are ready. Even if you feel your safety may be compromised, you can still take steps:

  • Be direct with your harasser, if you can.
  • Say no or let them know that what they are doing is offensive.
  • Keep a detailed record of what happened; include dates, times, places, names of persons involved and witnesses. If you do not know the harasser’s name, try to provide a description of their appearance or physical traits. Don’t keep it to yourself. You may not be the only victim of your harasser. Speaking up can help you find support and protect yourself and others.

Sexual assault as defined by Washington State law is:

  • Nonconsensual (meaning lack of freely given agreement) sexual touching of the genitals, anus, or breasts—either directly or through clothing.
  • Nonconsensual sexual penetration, however slight, of the genitals or anus by a body part of another including the mouth or the use of objects.
  • Forced display of the genitals, anus, or breasts for the purpose of sexually arousing another.

What can we do? 

Sexual harassment and sexual assault awareness is so vital. Here are a few actions I found helpful in combating the loss of feeling safe in my own neighborhood:

  • Report the incident. Seattle-Chinatown International District Preservation Development Authority (SCIDpda) has its Chinatown-ID Incident Report online at SCIDpda is a city-chartered community development agency with the mission to preserve, promote, and develop the area as a vibrant community and unique ethnic neighborhood. SCIDpda essentially acts as a liaison between the City of Seattle government and community to improve public safety in the neighborhood.
  • Get involved in changing all forms of oppression, especially against women. API Chaya is a nonprofit organization located in the Chinatown-International District that supports Asian, South Asian, and Pacific Islander survivors and families impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as human trafficking survivors from all communities. API Chaya engages communities to change societal conditions that enable domestic and sexual violence, human trafficking, and all forms of oppression, especially violence against women and the most vulnerable in our society.
  • Become an expert on eliminating sexual violence and abuse towards women. Check out King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC)’s Frequently Asked Questions at KCSARC provides sexual assault-related services for people of all ages in King County, WA, while working toward the ultimate goal of eliminating sexual violence and abuse from our communities.  

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