Metro asks customers about sexual harassment

Metro is soon releasing its annual customer survey. As was the case last year, the survey included a question asking Metro riders about sexual harassment. Specifically, the question asked riders if they had experienced unwanted sexual behavior including, but not limited to, touching, exposure or inappropriate comments in the past six months.

Twenty two percent of those who responded said ‘yes’ in this year’s survey. The question was worded slightly differently last year when the question asked if riders “felt unsafe” due to harassment in the previous month; 21 percent of rail riders and 18 percent of bus riders answered ‘yes.’ It’s also worth noting that 86 percent of this year’s respondent said they were generally satisfied with Metro’s service and 83 percent said they felt safe while waiting for their bus or train.

Metro doesn’t want any of its riders to feel that they’ve been harassed. The agency will soon be holding a media event and launching an awareness campaign that focuses on this message: if you believe you are being harassed, please report it as soon as possible to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD), which patrols Metro buses, trains and stations.

The Sheriff’s Department phone number is 888.950.SAFE (7233) — all Metro riders should save that number in their cell phones. If you don’t have a cell phone or can’t get a signal, please use emergency phones that are located at all rail stations or ask the bus or train operator to contact the Sheriff’s Department.

Obviously, harassment is not an easy subject for any agency, employer or anyone who manages or patrols public places. The Metro staff report posted below offers some helpful context. A few takeaways and other salient points:

•Surveys conducted about harassment on other transit properties — and in society at large — indicate that sexual harassment remains a serious issue in many places outside of transit. In several cases, the majority of respondents to surveys have said harassment is an issue.

•In the 2014 calendar year, the Sheriff’s Department received 99 reports from riders related to sexual harassment with the LASD saying that 37 of those reports met the legal threshold for sexual harassment. Twenty arrests were made as a result of the reports, with offenses that included unwanted touching, indecent exposure and/or inappropriate comments. There were a total of about 450 million boardings on Metro buses and trains in 2014.

•Metro’s stance is that all sexual harassment complaints are legitimate and Metro and the Sheriff’s Department will take those complaints seriously. It also must be understood that not all complaints will necessarily result in an arrest. That said, Metro urges people to report any problems.

8 replies

  1. Realistically speaking, you can’t expect law enforcement to arrive in time; face it, they are not apps on a smartphone, it still takes them time to respond and when it’s onboard public transit, there are traffic issues to get around because squad cars still drive on the same road as other vehicles, and if it’s rush hour, the response time can be long when you need it the most.

    Hence, I advocate people just carrying pepper spray/gel. It’s legal and anyone can use it as a self-defense tool to arm themselves with when “no means no” does not get the point across. Criminals are not going to follow laws anyway.

    Educate yourself what experts have to say about using them aboard public transit:

    Protecting with Pepper Gel
    http://blogs.ridemetro.org/blogs/write_on/archive/2007/11/16/Protecting-with-Pepper-Gel–.aspx

    Pepper Spray and Public Transit
    http://www.pepper-spray-store.com/pages/public-transit-safety

    Carry it and use it when you have to. Refuse to be a victim.

    • Hi Alex;

      People certainly have a right to defend themselves from bodily harm. That said, I think it’s reasonable to ask all patrons to exercise good judgment about the use of something like pepper spray and when it is appropriate to use it. I also urge everyone to consider whether the use of pepper spray is needlessly escalating a situation.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. A suggestion:

    Many police agencies in LA have volunteer reserve programs. Metro should consider doing something similar, encouraging riders to get training so that they can step in when assaults occur on buses and trains. People with a choice won’t take Metro unless they feel safe. Safety should be Metro’s number 1 priority.

      • With a name like Noam Chomsky, you speak like a true socialist; disarm law abiding citizens, criminals still break laws.

        Law abiding citizens have all the right to defend themselves from harm. Ever heard of the Second Amendment? It still is part of our Bill of Rights and there’s no chance in heck it’s going to go away anytime soon.

        Try reading up on the Ninth Circuit ruling Peruta v. San Diego; with the federal court ruling that conditions set by certain counties to show “good cause” to obtain a conceal carry permits are unconstitutional. The courts ruled that the only good cause needed is “self defense” as the core of the Second Amendment. Sooner or later, Metro will have to face the fact that they will have to deal with law-abiding permit holding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment right to conceal carry a firearm in public spaces, which includes public transit.

        If Metro doesn’t like that idea, they are free to privatize.

  3. When viewing these results, it’s important to consider the politics behind creating and administering a survey. People who have felt unsafe on the train may not necessarily feel comfortable vocalizing it in this setting (or at all). This may result in under-reporting (as often is the case with sexual harassment and violence statistics).

    I appreciate Metro including this in the survey, but I hope that we can view these results while thinking through the limitations of finding a the “complete / real” truth via a survey conducted in public, by a government agency, etc.