CTA anti-harassment ads

November 16, 2009

Chicago transit riders may notice something new on their commutes. CTA recently launched print Public Service Announcements that say:

If it’s unwanted, it’s harassment. Touching. Rude comments. Leering. Speak up. If you see something, say something.

At the bottom, the ads list information for who to contact if a rider is the target of sexual harassment.

Both Boston and New York City have anti-sexual harassment subway ad campaigns too.

The Young Women’s Action Team‘s 2009 subway & bus survey results and recommendations led to Chicago’s campaign. They have been doing amazing work since 2003 and hopefully their successes will inspire other people to take action and work to make a difference in their own community too.


It never ends

September 13, 2009

I am 70, in good shape, look much younger, but thinner than I’d like to be due to stomach problems which is no excuse for being harassed or made fun of on the street. Someone in a car yelled “twig” at me yesterday. I’ve been honked at ever since I’ve been a teen and it still goes on even at my age. I try to ignore it except for one time when I stopped dead, pulled out my mace and yelled “Back off.” He did. I’ve never had to use mace but I wouldn’t hesitate to use it on some bozo in a heartbeat if he deserved it.

When I was young and out for a walk in the daytime, I was touched on my bottom by a guy on a bike. I ran after him and almost caught him. I almost knocked him off his bike as he sped away.scared. I called police when I got home but they didn’t find him. A few days later a girl was almost raped on her way to school but luckily a neighbor heard her screams and yelled out the window and the guy ran off.

On my way home from work , I sat in the back of the bus and suddenly this guy opened a sex book and tried to show it to me. I tried to get up but he wouldn’t move so I poked him in the stomach with my umbrella and he let me up. The bus driver acted deaf and dumb when I reported it so I called the CTA when I got home. The next few days, the CTA had their detectives watching me and they caught the creep. As I was coming down the stairs from the el to the bus, he was following me but I never knew it. Luckily the CTA detectives saw it and they grabbed him and patted him down, taking out his wallet and everything in his pockets. I asked the detectives if they needed me to testify but they said they would handle him. I never saw him again.

– anonymous

Location: Chicago, IL

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.


CTA bus drivers voice concern about new anti-harassment policy

July 28, 2009

The Chicago Sun-Times has a follow up article to the one I reported on two weeks ago about how the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is expanding its policies on how bus and rail operators deal with harassers because of the activism of the Young Women’s Action Team.

Some bus drivers say that they weren’t informed about the new policies ahead of time and they have concerns with the changes. In part, they are concerned that if they intervene it could be dangerous and/or lead to complaints against them by the harasser.  They would prefer to call 911 for intervention – and ask that police respond promptly – rather than deal with it alone themselves. What this tells me is they must see a LOT of harassment because if this was a once in a while occurrence, it probably wouldn’t be so burdensome or worrisome to them.

I’m interested to find out how the implementation of stricter anti-harassment policies will play out on Chicago’s public transportation system.

Side note, I quickly glanced at the comments below the article and found this gem near the top:

“If the women that ride the C.T.A, don’t want a person(man)talking to them stay at home, don’t dress so in a way that a man is provoke to say something to her, besides she-they may not have job anyway.”

*Sigh* so much educating about street harassment to do!


Chicago’s Transit Changes Policies Due to Women Activists

July 16, 2009

Thanks to the efforts of the Rogers Park Young Women’s Action Team (YWAT) who have been documenting the high rates of sexual harassment on public transportation in Chicago, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is expanding its policies on how bus and rail operators deal with harassers. The YWAT surveyed 639 CTA riders and found that half had been sexually harassed on the system and 13 percent had been assaulted.

From the Chicago Sun Times (where the article is a homepage feature!):

“Before, if a customer felt she was being threatened or harassed by another passenger, the operator may just decide to ‘keep an eye’ on the situation, or tell the offender to move, or call the Control Center if they felt the situation needed an immediate response, according to Amy Kovalan, CTA’s senior vice president of safety, security and risk compliance.

‘Now, operators are instructed to ask an offending individual to stop the behavior,’ Kovalan said. ‘If that person does not cease, the operator immediately will call the Control Center and will be instructed on how to proceed.’ The rule applies to any kind of harassment — not just sexual.

The CTA also is updating its public safety tips brochure to include information about harassment, and how to report it.

In addition, the CTA is expanding its ‘If you see something, say something’ posters and audio announcements to include sexual harassment. Harassment complaints to the CTA customer service line will now have a special code, so that the agency can better monitor the problem.

YWAT just came out with their survey a few weeks ago, so to have the CTA already respond with changes is huge!! Congratulations to the YWAT. I said it before, and I’ll say it again: I really admire them and their work!

I also think this is very encouraging for people who live in other areas where there are high rates of harassment on public transportation but little being done to address it. A group of individuals can make a difference!


Chicago’s Superstars Address Harassment on the CTA

June 15, 2009

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.

Photo from the Sun Times

Photo from the Sun Times

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.