Metro has officially embarked on an awareness campaign to fight incidents of sexual harassment against people using the system.
“This purpose of this outreach is to let people know that it’s not okay to sexually harass people on Metro,” said Metro General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles on WMATA’s website. “We are encouraging anyone who may be harassed to report the incident to Metro Transit Police.”
Phase one included this week’s launch of an online reporting system. Victims have the option of remaining anonymous, but all reports will be sent directly to Metro Transit Police. An email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, has also been set up to allow customers to send photos or video to assist in an investigation.
According to the website, reportable behavior includes “extended leering, sexual comments, indecent exposure, stalking and groping.” Even if an incident doesn’t seem like a crime, victims are asked to still report what happened so Metro can spot trends and try to prevent future crimes from occurring. Right now, WMATA does not track such statistics.
“Prior to this initiative, we were not collecting data on reported harassment that did not rise to the level of a crime,” said WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel. “Over the next few months, we will track the data, develop a baseline for future comparisons, and report statistics publicly on a quarterly basis.”
A number of Arlington incidents of harassment on Metro have been made public over the last couple of years. An apparent repeat offender at the Courthouse station was reported to police by at least one woman whom he grabbed after taking a cell phone photo up her skirt. Another apparent repeat offender has been reported at the Pentagon stop in posts on the advocacy website Collective Action for Safe Spaces.
“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,” Collective Action for Safe Spaces Co-founder Chai Shenoy said on WMATA’s website. “We see this partnership as a step in the right direction and a model for other transit agencies around the world to follow.”
As part of the anti-harassment initiative, soon customers will see posters for the campaign displayed on buses and in train stations. Materials will be handed out throughout the system. Metro is also working on enhancing training for its employees on the front lines.