As any woman living in or visiting NYC, or as anyone reading the website HollaBackNYC will know, street harassment is a major problem there.
Public transportation is one of the hot spots for such offenses. The NYC Transit says there have been 587 reports of sexual offenses in the subway system so far this year, mainly on the Lexington Avenue 4, 5 and 6 lines. Harassment and assault are very under-reported, so the real numbers are far worse.
For more than a year, New Yorkers for Safe Transit have been working specifically to make the subway and bus systems harassment-free. For example, for over a year there have been anti-sexual harassment print ads and, for almost a year, audio ads on several subway lines, thanks to their efforts. Recently they testified at a hearing on sexual harassment on public transportation.
Their continued pressure and activism is leading to more efforts on the part of NYC’s transit system.
- MTA reports they will increase the number of automated messages in the subway stations warning against assaults and they will begin distributing anti-groping posters and brochures.
- They are working with the NYPD to have more officers at stations, especially during rush hour, so targets of sexual harassment can more easily report offenders. Victims of subway sexual harassment can also call NYPD’s Sex Crimes Report Line at 212.267.RAPE.
- Building off the method HollaBackNYC uses for “hollaback”ing at harassers with camera phone photos, NYPD is working on a pilot program that would enable victims to send photos of harassers to police officers, who can investigate the case even after the harasser has slipped away into a crowd. This is essential because so often harassers only harass when they know they can escape or when they know there will be no witnesses.
Lastly, here are recent tips released by the NYPD for dealing with sexual harassment on the subway:
- Do not be ashamed or afraid to report the offense to the police or an MTA employee immediately.
- During off hours, wait at the marked waiting areas on the station platforms and sit in the conductor’s car when the train arrives.
- Know your way around your subway stations: the locations of exits and where stairwells lead.
- If the sex offense happens on a crowded subway car, if you can do so safely, step away from the perpetrator and loudly let others know what the offender is doing.
- If you are in an empty car, leave the car and find one with more passengers.
- If you can do so safely, use your cell phone to take a photo of the perpetrator, or make a note of any distinctive features or items of clothing.
- If the perpetrator follows you off the train, call the police and stay in a crowded area.
- Remain alert and awake.
Kudos to the New Yorkers for Safe Transit for keeping on the pressure and to the MTA and NYPD for stepping up their efforts to make subways safer and freer of sexual harassment.