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Dear PoP – Sexual Harassment on the Bus, Encouraged by the Driver

by Prince Of Petworth June 7, 2011 at 10:00 am 84 Comments


Photo by PoPville flickr user dcienne

“Dear PoP,

I got on the 96 bus heading West at U Street NW and 11 Street NW on Saturday, June 4, just before midnight. It was bus number 4299. I didn’t get the driver’s name, but she was a black woman.

As I got on, I noticed the bus driver and a few other passengers yelling insults at a woman getting off the bus, who was visibly upset. I’ve seen a lot of confrontations on DC buses, so I wasn’t paying too much attention at first and don’t remember exactly what was said. It was clear, however, that the bus driver and two or three passengers sitting at the front of the bus (two men and a woman) were ganging up on her in their insults.

When the bus started moving, very slowly given the U Street traffic, I soon realized that the two men who had been yelling at the woman were continuously sticking their heads out the window and yelling remarks at women who were walking by on U Street and comment about their clothing and body types. Some of the women ignored them, while at least one yelled back and told them to stop.

The worst part was that the bus driver was actively encouraging the men and laughing at the remarks. The situation made me extremely uncomfortable and I didn’t know what to do. After 2-3 minutes, I yelled at one of the men to show some respect, immediately signaled to get off, got off at 14th street and walked the rest of the way to my destination. While I was walking, the bus passed and I observed the men continue to yell remarks at passing women.

It is one thing to observe this kind of harassment–it is another to have a Metro employee encourage the behavior while on the job. It was extremely unprofessional and I demand that Metro identify the employee and take disciplinary action against her. Washington DC’s women deserve better while riding on public transit.”

At the very least, it certainly sounds like some sort of sensitivity training would be beneficial. Obviously encouraging these remarks is reprehensible but what do you think should be the actions/obligations of the driver in situations like this? What would you do as a passenger in a situation like this?

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