Join focus group on NYC subway safety!

December 9, 2009

Cross-posted from New Yorkers for Safe Transit:

Do you feel safe riding NYC’s public transit system? Give yourself and others a voice, by sharing your mass transit experiences.

In mid-January, NYFST will be hosting two focus groups for survivors of gender and discrimination-based violence and harassment on New York City’s public transportation system.

We’re seeking focus group participants for two 2 hour sessions (6-8 p.m.). We are interested in hearing first-hand accounts from women, people of color, LGBTQGNC individuals, youth, and low-income individuals.

With your help, we will be able to raise public awareness on this issue and continue progress towards eliminating harassment and violence on mass transit.

Please spread the word and contact us at info@nyfst.org to sign up and more information on dates and location.

Light refreshments will be served and $4.50 MetroCards will be provided.

Also, be sure to share & submit your NYC mass transit stories.


Hearing on NYC Subway Harassment

November 20, 2009

Earlier this week I called out the New York Times for trying to compare street harassment to loud cell phone talkers and said I hoped one day they would address the problem of street harassment in a serious way. Lo and behold, yesterday they covered harassment on public transportation.

The New York Times reported on a joint hearing of three City Council committees — Transportation, Women’s Issues and Public Safety — and officials from the Police Department and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to discuss sexual harassment on subways and buses.

At the hearing everyone acknowledged that this is a big problem in New York City, especially during late morning rush hour (8 to 10 a.m.) and early afternoon rush hour (4 to 6 p.m.).  The crowded Nos. 4, 5 and 6 lines between Grand Central Terminal and Union Square, they said, is a particular source of complaints.

James P. Hall, chief of the Police Department’s Transit Bureau, said that sexual harassment was the “No. 1 quality of life offense on the subway.” As of Nov. 15, there had been 587 reports of sex offenses in the subway system this year. He said, “However, we strongly suspect this is a highly underreported crime.” I agree!

Some of my street harassment activists friends who formed New Yorkers for Safe Transit testified too.

They are working on getting better reporting methods and numbers for sexual harassment and assault on the subways. This week Councilwoman Jessica S. Lappin introduced a bill that New Yorkers for Safe Transit support, one that would require the police to collect data on sexual harassment in the subways.

“This is important because historically, harassment is overlooked by law enforcement authorities,” said Oraia Reid, a founding member of New Yorkers for Safe Transit who testified at the hearing.

Ms. Reid, who is also the executive director of RightRides for Women’s Safety, said another challenge was to get law enforcement to take the harassment more seriously.

She added, “It’s actually been very disempowering to report sexual harassment and assault.”

Yeah, like remember when a woman got a photo of a man masturbating on the subway and reported it to a police officer who then told her, incorrectly, that it wasn’t a police matter and to call 311?

Another example – one woman who took my informal anonymous survey last year and lives in NYC said one time when she reported a man that was following her in the subway station to the police, the officer said he didn’t blame the guy (implying she was pretty and so it was natural for a man to follow her…). So clearly there are police officers who need more education and training on the issues and how to help people who report harassers.

But I’m glad the NY Times covered this story and this issue. We need them to keep on doing so!

I also want to say a big GREAT JOB! to New Yorkers for Safe Transit!! They’ve only been around about a year and already they are making a huge difference in the NYC community. Check out their website and submit your NYC mass transit sexual harassment story.


Gropers Caught in Boston!

November 4, 2009

Earlier this week, a 52-year old man allegedly groped a young woman’s butt on a subway platform in Boston. She asked the man’s friend if he groped her and he said no. The alleged groper then chimed in saying it was him and that he bet she liked it and that he liked it and he was never going to see her again, so what did it matter.

The young woman reported him to police, who thankfully took her report seriously and arrested him. Good for her, good for the police. BOO to the stupid groper. I wonder how many other women he’s groped?! Hopefully she was the last. [Wordpress won’t let me embed it, but follow this link to see a short news clip about the story.]

Also that same night in a separate incident, police arrested another subway groper. A 37-year-old man groped a woman and then verbally harased her until she got off the train and reported him.

Last weekend MBTA launched more anti-sexual harassment ads on subways and buses, including this one:

Given how many men grope women on subways and buses in major cities around the world, other cities would do well to pay attention and perhaps start their own campaign and educate their MTA workers and police officers how to handle reports correctly, the way the officers did in these two incidents. Good job, Boston!


More PSAs in Boston

November 2, 2009

A year and a half ago, Boston’s MTA started an anti-sexual harassment ad campaign on the subways and buses. The campaign has led to a 40 percent increase in the number of harassers police have arrested.

Now, MBTA is preparing to launch hundreds more anti-sexual harassment posters on buses and subway cars throughout Boston in an increased effort to curb such harassment and encourage more people to report it.

I applaud MBTA for taking sexual harassment on public transportation seriously. My main concern with their ads is that while it’s useful to have info informing women of their right to report harassers, it would be nice if there was also some message about respecting women and not harassing them!

UPDATE (11/4/09): I just read an article that talks more about the increased efforts by MBTA to fight groping etc on the subways and buses and there are some new ads aimed at harassers, notably this one, so now I support their efforts even  more!


Trustworthy Stranger

September 17, 2009

Here’s another positive story from GivesMeHope.com about an interaction between strangers in public:

“When I was seven, my parents and I were travelling in New York and I rushed onto a subway just as the doors closed, leaving my family on the platform. I was absolutely terrified and hysterical, but one lady took the time to get off with me at the next stop and bring me back to the previous station. Sometimes strangers can be trusted. GMH.” – Kelly_kelly, July 6, 2009

Do you have a positive story you want to share about interactions with strangers in public? Submit it for inclusion on the blog.

(i dedicate this post to my partner, who is tired of hearing me tell depressing stories :/)


Called to since puberty

September 9, 2009

I live in New York City, so I’ve been called to by weirdos since I’ve hit puberty. I recently started to attend The City College of New York up on 138th street. I have to take the subway in order to get home from school. Last week when I was about to enter the subway, a man looked me over and said:

“Hey, gorgeous”

I just raised my eyebrows at him as if to say “yea right.”

He got angry and started following me into the subway station saying something along the lines of “I thought I was cute but I guess I’m not cute enough for you.”

He stopped once I swiped my metrocard and got onto the train platform but I was nonetheless disturbed the entire ride home.

– anonymous

Location: New York City, NY

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.


Toronto man charged after subway sexual assault

August 27, 2009

Last month around 5 p.m., a man tried to start a conversation with a 28-year-old woman when she boarded a TTC subway train at Coxwell station, in Toronto.

From The Star.com:

“The man reached out and sexually assaulted the woman after failed attempts to engage her in conversation, she told police. Both the man and the complainant exited at Kennedy station, where the man was last seen heading toward the bus platform area. Officers investigating the incident issued an arrest warrant for Omar Matthews, 25, on July 30. Yesterday, Matthews turned himself in to police. He faces one charge of sexual assault and three counts of fail to comply with probation.”

And there are people who wonder why women worry about talking to strange men! Or even not talking to them! Quite a lot of women say they ignore the harassing men and recommend other women ignore men as a method for getting away safely and without a scene, yet that doesn’t always work, as this incident illustrates. She did ignore him and he escalated his actions to sexual assault. It’s scary to think there is no way to respond that guarantees safety or dignity.

I’m glad she reported him though and that the police took it seriously. I encourage everyone else to do so too if they are similarly harassed or assaulted.