Fighting harassment on transit systems

Posted on December 3, 2009 by Alex Roman - Also by this author

Whether it’s at work, on a night out, or riding the bus or subway, women face some sort of sexual harassment every day.

At a recent joint hearing of three New York City Council committees, – Transportation, Women’s Issues and Public Safety – the New York Police Department (NYPD) and Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials spoke about the cry from its riders for more prevention and enforcement of sexual harassment.

During the hearing, James P. Hall, chief of the NYPD’s transit division, spoke about the number of sex offenses and arrests since November 15, 2009, – 587 reports, 412 arrests – but added that he believes those numbers are “highly underreported,” according to a New York Times article. 

Recently, I spoke with Oraia Reid, co-founder and executive director of the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based RightRides for Women’s Safety, for a news story in an upcoming issue about the problem of sexual harassment on New York subways and the push for more enforcement. RightRides’ attempts to build safer communities by ending gender-based harassment and sexual assault through working with the community by organizing and offering direct service, safety education and advocacy programs.

Reid has experienced, firsthand, sexual harassment on New York’s subway system and has seen other people be harassed through either verbal or physical actions, who do not report the incidents. RightRides supports state legislation that has been introduced that will help better track and collect data on sexual harassment on the subway system and increased customer awareness, which the MTA aims to boost via ads, printed brochures and on-board announcements.

Obviously, passenger comfort is a top priority for transit agencies all over the nation. What do you do to ensure passengers aren’t sexually harassed on your system?

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