As a woman who spends the majority of her time traveling via foot and public transit, I am — unfortunately — no stranger to sexual harassment. I have seen people make lewd gestures to me on the bus. I’ve had that shady person sit way too close when the train is totally empty. I’ve had that guy block my path as I walk to the station to tell me ‘hey mama, you look nice today, give me a pretty smile’ and when I scowl and brush past, I’ll hear “I was just trying to say hi, stupid fat ——”
And I’m lucky. My encounters were only uncomfortable and didn’t seem dangerous. But that doesn’t mean it’s not happening to other people who ride Metro every day. The frustrating thing is, people aren’t reporting these incidents. In 2014, for example, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Transit Policing Division received only 99 official reports of unwanted sexual conduct involving exposure, touching or inappropriate comments.
Of course, there are various reasons someone wouldn’t want to report sexual harassment. Maybe they’re embarrassed or don’t have the time to report something that was only unnerving or annoying. Or maybe they don’t believe it would do any good anyway.
But you know what? Someone else invading your space shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it. And reporting it is always better than doing nothing.
And with that in mind, Metro and Peace Over Violence, a sexual and domestic violence prevention center, are getting the message out with “It’s Off Limits,” a system-wide campaign that makes it very clear sexual harassment will not be tolerated. So don’t be embarrassed to report it, and don’t think your reports are going nowhere.
If you experience sexual harassment or see it happening, report the incidents to the Sheriff’s hotline at 1.888.950.SAFE or 911, or use the free LA Metro Transit Watch app, which has been upgraded to include reports for “Indecent Exposure,” “Sexual Assault-Physical” and “Sexual Harassment-Non-Physical.” The app, available for iOS and Android, also allows you to snap a photo of the suspect without activating the camera flash.
In coordination with LASD, Metro has begun training all front-line personnel — bus and train operators, maintenance and custodial personnel — in a procedure to help victims who want to make a report. So please don’t ever feel like there’s no one around who can help. Get their attention, let them know what’s happening. Whether you’re old or young, man or woman, you deserve a safe and comfortable ride on Metro.
Here’s a link to our earlier post about today’s media event to promote Metro’s new anti-harassment campaign.