You may not remember me, Officer, but I remember you. I was the tall blond woman heading to the Gold Line platform at Union Station during the evening rush hour on Monday. I was dressed appropriately for the office, in business slacks and a button down shirt. You were the Metro sheriff in his late 20’s with dark hair and conventional good looks. You stood at the top of the staircase with your partner checking riders’ TAP cards for valid payment.
I was leaving a stressful day at the office and was on my way to meet my friends’ newborn daughter. I was so excited to meet their beautiful new child, and that was the driving force getting me through the day. My excitement was building as I got to Union Station, just one train ride closer to meeting her. That joy washed away all of the horrible moments I had at work.
And then, Officer, I approached you so you could verify my Metro fare. I presented you with my wallet with my TAP card buried deep inside. You commented in jest that I had so much in my wallet that it you may not be able to scan my card. I gave you a friendly smile and assured you I’ve never had an issue before. Sure enough, your scanner gave an approving beep to indicate I was riding legally. The train was pulling to the platform, so I quickly turned and walked away to board. That is when I heard you, Officer, make a comment to my back.
“Damn, you look good.”
Your comment slid into my head like a parasite. At that very moment, I was filled with anticipation of meeting the child who I hope will someday run to greet me with an excited hug when I visit her and her family. I didn’t react to your comment right away. Instead, it stayed in my brain and gestated for hours, only to strike once the fog of love began to slowly lift from my head.
I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, Officer. Maybe you thought you were trying to give me a legitimate compliment. If that is the case, allow me to give you a morsel of advice. Next time, drop the ‘damn.’ That sets the tone right there, and it’s not one that makes a woman feel good. Try looking her in the eye while delivering that compliment instead of waiting for her to turn her back. And for the love of all that is holy, don’t do it while you’re in uniform!
Now, Officer, I’m sure you’re aware of the recent Los Angeles Times article which said that one in five Metro riders feel unsafe because of sexual harassment. Sadly, I am surprised it wasn’t higher. I am not exaggerating when I say that sexual harassment is something I experience daily. Every time I hear some creep whistle at me while grabbing his crotch, I wonder if this will be the time I’m followed off the train to be attacked and raped. That is a really awful thought for a person to carry every day when all I (and others) are trying to do is get to a destination. Metro launched a new campaign this spring to combat this very behavior. What message does that send when you are participating in these disgusting actions? How can others take this campaign to heart when those who are supposed to enforce it are ignoring it?
And you, Officer, hold a duty to Metro riders and all citizens to protect and serve. I would like to think that your service goes beyond shaking down riders for their fare. Now my trust in Metro law enforcement has been shaken. Who can I turn to the next time some creep intentionally rubs himself against me on a crowded platform? Certainly not the same people who have doled out verbal harassment to me.
You, Officer, have shaken the confidence I have in Metro and in the city that I love so dear. I have dedicated myself to encouraging others to abandon their cars and choose a lifestyle that includes Metro. How can I honestly respond to a woman who tells me she doesn’t feel safe enough to take the train? Who can we turn to for help when harassment is coming from those who are supposed to curtail it?
If nothing else, I hope you think twice about making a comment towards the next woman who walks by that you find attractive. A rude comment can take away any joy that exists in a person’s heart. That crude behavior can be the final straw for a woman to trust anyone who is in a position to help when she could be in danger. I really hope this blog post makes its way to you, and you realize the damage your did with those four short syllables.
Update: It turns out that the guy who made this comment towards me is an employee of the LASD Metro Division, but is not a sworn officer. I have received incredible response from both Metro and LASD and steps are being taken to deal with this incident and to prevent future ones from happening. You can read more about the response that I’ve received right here.