Sexual Harassment on Public TransportationOctober 08, 2008
Recently police arrested a man at a Manhattan subway station on misdemeanor charges of attempted unlawful surveillance, attempted sexual abuse, and harassment. A month earlier he took a cell phone picture up the skirt of a woman at another subway station. The woman retaliated by taking his photo and filing a police report. The police officer who arrested the man said he recognized him from that report. Just as this woman did, people in New York City who witness crimes now can take pictures on their cell phone cameras and send them when they make their 911 calls.
Sexual harassment on public transportation is a problem in many big cities. Several countries like Japan and Mexico are handling it by creating women-only subway cars and buses. In early September, New York City launched a subway ad campaign to address the rampant sexual harassment problem on subways (peruse some of the stories on the HollaBack NYC website if you want examples). Right now, a Subway Safety Coalition task force, including Right Rides and HollaBack NYC, is working to increase the visibility of the ads, add a phone number to the ads that people can use to report the crime, and encourage better sexual harassment training for police officers and subway personnel. (For a horrifying example of the need for better training, read this news story.)
AAUW has long addressed sexual harassment in the workplace and schools through its Legal Advocacy Fund, Public Policy initiatives, and research reports. However, sexual harassment on public transportation is a new frontier with few effective laws. Acknowledging that there is a problem is an important step; I hope new legislation and better policies will follow in cities nationwide. I applaud New York City for finally taking this widespread problem seriously and for its innovative initiatives. I hope they are successful.
Have you experienced sexual harassment on public transportation? Do you have any suggestions for ending it?