I’ve long admired the anti-street harassment work of the Rogers Park Young Women’s Action Team (YWAT) in Illinois (for example, a few years ago they held a citywide Day of Activism against Street Harassment). Their current work to address harassment on Chicago’s public transportation makes me admire then even more.
The YWAT recently surveyed 639 CTA riders, mostly young women, and found that over half of the respondents had been sexually harassed on the CTA and thirteen percent had been sexually assaulted. Of those who had been harassed or assaulted, only 9 percent said they filed a complaint with the police or CTA. Supporting the low reporting rate, there were only two recorded incidents of criminal sexual assault on the whole Chicago transportation system in 2008. Via the Chicago Sun Times:
“Ronnett Lockett, 20, a Northern Illinois University student and another member of the group, said one problem is that women might be frightened and not know how to respond. Ads on trains would help people know what to do, Lockett said.
The group also wants CTA employees and police to be trained in how to deal with harassment. …
CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney said the agency takes these things ‘very seriously.’ But riders who feel threatened have to speak up, she said.
‘Should a customer feel threatened at any time as the result of another individual’s behavior, they should notify the rail operator immediately via the use of the emergency call button,’ Gaffney said.
At L stations, customer assistants or security guards are on duty during service hours, Gaffney said.
And CTA buses and many L stops are equipped with security cameras networked to the CTA’s control center, Gaffney said. Some stations have already been renovated to include brighter lighting, and the agency is in the process of installing more security cameras.”
The YWAT is holding a poetry slam about sexual harassment on the CTA to gather more stories about harassment and open community dialogue about this problem too many women and girls face. The event will be held on June 27.
I’m glad they are continuing to address the problem of harassment and assault in public spaces (like buses and subways) that women in their community face simply for being female. Their work will make a difference.