April 2, 2012

D.C. Metro launches anti-sexual harassment campaign

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) is introducing a public awareness campaign to combat sexual harassment of customers while using the system.

The first phase of the campaign includes an online portal for customers to report incidents to Metro Transit Police, along with improved data tracking of incidents. In addition, new customer awareness posters will soon be displayed in train stations and onboard buses and materials will be distributed across the system.

The online reporting tool, located at wmata.com/harassment, allows someone who feels they were sexually harassed to report the incident directly to Metro Transit Police using a Web-based form. Information submitted through the Web portal is immediately transmitted to Metro Transit Police for follow-up action, and people who report incidents have the option of remaining anonymous. Metro has also established an email address to allow victims to send photo or video files to assist an investigation.

The new posters, flyers and handouts, developed in English and Spanish, are intended to raise awareness about the issue of sexual harassment in public spaces and encourage victims to report incidents to police. The award-winning campaign was created by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (Boston T), who agreed to license the campaign materials to Metro at no cost.

“This purpose of this outreach is to let people know that it’s not okay to sexually harass people on Metro,” said Metro GM/CEO Richard Sarles. “We are encouraging anyone who may be harassed to report the incident to Metro Transit Police, and we appreciate the support of the advocacy groups in getting our message out into the communities we serve.”

To identify best practices and assist with implementation, Metro is working cooperatively with several local and national groups, including Collective Action for Safe Spaces; DC Rape Crisis Center; and Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. These efforts will continue in the months ahead.

"The changes that Metro is making to address public sexual harassment and assault is a testament to the hundreds of stories we received on our site," said Chai Shenoy, co-founder of Collective Action for Safe Spaces. "We see this partnership as a step in the right direction and a model for other transit agencies around the world to follow."

Metro Transit Police are now tracking all reports of sexual harassment incidents — even those that do not rise to the level of a crime. The data will be used to identify trends and deploy officers as necessary and will be reported publicly to Metro’s board of directors on a quarterly basis.

An effort to enhance training for Metro frontline employees is also in development.

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