Metro, in partnership with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) and the community organization Peace Over Violence (POV), announced last week that its doubling down their efforts to thwart sexual harassment on the bus and rail system.
Last spring, Metro rolled out the initial phase of the “It’s Off Limits” campaign. Metro’s semi-annual Customer Satisfaction Survey showed a decrease in riders who have experienced unwanted sexual contact, comments, or exposure since the campaign launched, down to 19 percent of riders (from 22 percent).
The latest message of the new campaign encourages those who witness sexual harassment to speak up for those victims. Simply going up to a person you see getting harassed and asking if she’s okay can go miles in empowering her. With riders partnering with LASD to report harassment, everyone can enjoy a safer riding experience. According to POV’s Executive Director Patti Giggans, “speak up is the next step in progressive messaging to empower victims and witnesses of sexual harassment to report, since the overwhelming majority of these crimes go unreported.”
I had an experience a couple months back where a LASD employee made a sexually harassing comment to me on the gold line platform at Union Station. It took away from what was an otherwise happy moment, and that loss of self stayed with me for days. Paul Gonzales of Metro came across my blog and reached out to me right away. That simple gesture was enough to make me feel validated, and that I wasn’t less of a person after what happened. That is a perfect example of what other riders should do when we see something happening.
Metro is the only transit agency in the U.S. that conducts its own studies to find a solution to the sexual harassment problem, whereas other agencies rely on data from academic institutions or media organizations. Metro brings together stakeholders after conducting the survey to find a solution. They have proven their commitment to ending this problem with their initiative to investigate their own system. The follow through I experience by Metro and LASD has me convinced that they are fighting to end the problem of sexual harassment.
If you see or experience sexual harassment, Metro encourages riders to report it to their hotline at 1.888.950.SAFE. Emergency Call buttons are also located in every rail car, and bus drivers can be informed of the problem as well. Incidents can be reported via Metro Transit Watch, which is Metro’s smartphone app. The app even contains a feature that turns off the camera’s flash to allow people to photograph an incident without being noticed.