Metro launches anti-sexual harassment campaign

by Prince Of Petworth April 3, 2012 at 11:30 am 89 Comments


Metro is introducing a public awareness campaign to combat sexual harassment of customers while using the system.

The first phase of the campaign, launched today, includes an online portal for customers to report incidents to Metro Transit Police, along with improved data tracking of incidents. In addition, new customer awareness posters will soon be displayed in train stations and onboard buses and materials will be distributed across the system.

The online reporting tool, located at wmata.com/harassment, allows someone who feels they were sexually harassed to report the incident directly to Metro Transit Police using a web-based form. Information submitted through the web portal is immediately transmitted to Metro Transit Police for follow-up action, and people who report incidents have the option of remaining anonymous. Metro has also established an email address ([email protected]) to allow victims to send photo or video files to assist an investigation.

The new posters, flyers and handouts, developed in English and Spanish, are intended to raise awareness about the issue of sexual harassment in public spaces and encourage victims to report incidents to police. The award-winning campaign was created by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (Boston T), who agreed to license the campaign materials to Metro at no cost.

“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. “We are encouraging anyone who may be harassed to report the incident to Metro Transit Police, and we appreciate the support of the advocacy groups in getting our message out into the communities we serve.”

  • Hahaha – A catchphrase that sounds like a solicitation. On an ad about sexual harassment. Great job, Metro!

    • +1!

      It’s only a matter of time until we move to the Japanese anti-“skebe” policy of female-only trains.

    • ah

      Really – sort of begs for a “yes, please” response.

  • ich

    um, what? this is horrible copywriting.

  • ah

    the Metro police won’t bother with people eating right in front of them, but we should expect them to do something about a person who rubs up against another in what is likely an ambiguous manner?

    • JK

      If you have ever been a victim of this, there is nothing ambiguous about it.

      • J

        The picture Metro provides is somewhat ambigious. It looks like the train is completely full and there just isn’t any room to not squeeze by people.

      • Agreed. And since when is eating and being groped comparable crimes. The people who this ad is being targed to know exactly what they are talking about.

  • Anonymous

    Is it just me or does that loot picture look like a standard crowded metro car squeeze through move? Doesn’t seem sexual to me. Is the woman the victim or the aggressor?

    • Agreed. Stupid choice of picture. It simply looks like a very crowded Metro train (i.e., Monday thru Friday during rush hour). Whoever picked out that photo and whoever approved it should be fired.

      • What gives?

        Hardly a firing offense. I assume you were using hyperbole for effect?

  • Anonymous

    Is it just me or does that loot picture look like a standard crowded metro car squeeze through move? Doesn’t seem excessive to me. Is the woman the victim or the aggressor?

    • What gives?

      I had the same thought. I looks like the woman is the one squeezing through, and therefore the one most likely ‘rubbing’. The whole thing looks innocuous to me.

      • Anonymous

        Grey shirt guy could be grinding up against her and she’s trying to flee.

        • What gives?

          Well, I suppose that’s we’re expected to believe/infer, but it looks more like grey-shirted guy is angling his groin *away* from the woman. :-)

          Anyway, we’re pretty far afield here: it’s creepy, it’s wrong, it’s illegal. Mostly, it’s sad that we need a psa to tell people that.

  • Caroline

    I’ve definitely been the short girl in the picture before! Makes me so glad I don’t have to take the metro to work anymore.

  • caballero

    At some point soon, a nice guy will summon the courage to approach a 30-something woman, because he hates meeting women in bars. She’s not wearing a wedding ring, and he knows from a recent posting on the Prince of Petworth that plenty of single women are having trouble meeting men in DC. So he goes for it. He asks her about the book she is reading. 10 minutes later, as the cops take the guy away in handcuffs, she’ll tell the authorities he was “creepy” and made unwanted advances, etc.

    • rd

      like there was a need for a campaign to tell Washingtonians to be uptight about their personal space.

    • Anonymous

      No. Not true. Unless the guy is a total creep and therefore, needs to revise his flirting techniques. This isn’t about the “nice guys” it’s about the women (and sometimes men) who are harassed on a daily basis just trying to get from point A to point B.

    • Sometimes its nice to get from one place to another without being hit on.

      • +1. It’s a good day if I can get to school, work, and back home again without any males speaking to me.

        • Anonymous

          We can assume you worded that poorly and didn’t mean it the way it reads, but in case you didn’t: newsflash! not every male who speaks to you is hitting on you.

          • Thanks for the reminder, Anonymous! You sure put my obviously hyperbolic narcissism in its proper place.

        • caballero

          So what’s a man to do? In a recent post, women were complaining about men not having the guts to approach them, and then we hear that women don’t want to be bothered. No woman would be bothered if Johnny Depp interrupted their reading. When women say a guy is “creepy” it invariably means he wasn’t up to their standards. It’s a way of weeding out the the top dogs…..the nice, but lame guys will get handcuffed for being creepy, while the mysterious rakes will elicit giggles and get phone numbers.

          • What gives?

            Exactly. Johnny Depp could rub ass all day on the Metro, no problem.

          • “No woman would be bothered if Johnny Depp interrupted their reading.”

            Ha! Probably true. Which I find odd because that guy is extremely creepy.

          • The comment really pisses me off. Their is a HUGE difference between a man approaching a woman and flirting vs a man that approaches a woman and deliberately rubs his crotch in her face (yes, that has happened) or waits for her to start sitting down and stretches his arm out, lays his hand down palm up in order to grab her ass when it falls into the seat (happened to me). To try to compare a man asking a woman out or flirting to actual sexual harassment is rather misogynistic.

          • Anonymous

            If you seriously think there’s not a difference between striking up a conversation with a woman and inappropriately touching her, I don’t know what to say to you.

          • Anonymous

            Woman speaking: if Johnny Depp rubbed up on me I would be completely creeped out. Some women have realistic views of men and don’t idolize these supposed famous people. I’d take my 6’2″ 330 lb handsome as heck, baby faced boyfriend over Johnny Depp any day of the week.

          • caballero

            According to the flyer, harassment includes “speaking to you inappropriately.” How do you define that? My wife sometimes takes umbrage when men try to speak to her in public. Do you know what all these men had in common? They were all working-class Salvadorans who were 5’ tall, at best. It’s funny how my wife never complains if a good-looking man in a suit and good manners chats her up.

          • Anonymous

            what do you care? you’re married.

        • Gee, I wonder why there are so many single women in DC. They all have an excuse and always blame the available men, but clearly, a little introspection might give you a better answer.

          • The above is a response to the commenter’s desire to get through the day without having any males talk to her, and lest it he misconstrued, not making light of harassment on the Metro, which I hate.

          • “Gee, I wonder why there are so many single women in DC. They all have an excuse and always blame the available men, but clearly, a little introspection might give you a better answer.”

            … Uh, I’m married. K thanks bai. ^_^

      • What gives?

        I can understand that, but think about it from the other side: how is a guy supposed to meet a young lady he finds attractive if you would chalk up his saying ‘hello’ as ‘hitting on you’ (pejorative) and get annoyed?

        I know it gets annoying (be thankful you’re so attractive!), but balanced against all the women who get annoyed at men with no backbone when it comes to approaching women (my wife included), what’s a single fella to do? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t sometimes.

        • Anonymous

          How in the world did discussion about sexual harassment on the metro turn into worrying about how women would respond to being hit on? You’re not her employer and there’s no crime in trying, even if you’re creepy about it. Just don’t grope her!

          • Anonymous

            I totally agree with you. Elza and Allison may not, based on their comments. I don’t know. You’d have to ask them. I was responding to their comments about being hit on all the live long day and how annoying it is.

            They made the connection. I did not.

          • +1 Exactly how are/were you approaching women, honking their bits and then saying hello? Using the ‘ole wolf whistle technique? A simple hello and innocent chatter isn’t what this is about. It sounds like you are trying to “justify” harrassment by complaining that the campaign infringes on a male’s right to ask a woman out.

          • What gives?

            @What: I’m not sure if you were talking to me, but you have *totally* misread me, if so.

          • I’m not sure anyone here is specifically equating “being hit on” with sexual harassment (I view it as a spectrum, open to interpretation.) However, I think our discussion about “being hit on” has been skewed by a fundamentally flawed presumption. Bear with me.

            Many men simply presume that being hit upon is a compliment, and should be graciously taken as such by any woman. “What? it just means I think you’re hot! Take a compliment!”– is what I believe such a man would think.

            However, a compliment is praise offered with nothing expected in return. I do not view being hit on as a compliment, because it is underlain by the desire to get something out of me in return. Moreover, some women do not base their self-worth or conception of personal beauty on how many men flirt with them per day. In short, stop thinking that your hitting on a woman is some benevolent gift to her from above, because it’s not.

        • I think my foregoing point is only exemplified by your comment “be thankful you’re so attractive.” Thankful that others view me in such a way as to consistently interrupt my peace on public transport, is what you mean to say. I don’t think men understand what it’s like, frankly.

    • hey fellas, there is a huge difference between hitting on a hottie and being creepy. to pretend otherwise is draw attention from the real issue at hand: sexual harrasment.

      • What gives?

        Nobody is pretending anything or trying to make harassment OK. You’re ignoring the comments that opened this line of discussion about regular guys being a bit frustrated by women who view any male speaking to them us an unwanted annoyance:
        (from Elza: “Sometimes its nice to get from one place to another without being hit on.”)
        (from Allison: “+1. It’s a good day if I can get to school, work, and back home again without any males speaking to me.”)

        Nobody’s saying they’re wrong to feel that way, but how is a guy to know until he innocently says hello (“hits on them”, in their parlance) and gets a stink face because they’re fed up.

        That all. That’s it. Nothing more being insinuated, implied, encouraged, etc.

        • Anonymous

          Like you said- they’re entitled to respond however they like, just like you’re allowed to talk to complete strangers. The trick is not to take anything too seriously, whether they respond politely or not.

        • caballero

          The next woman I see reading “50 Shades of Grey” on the metro is gonna be treated to a little smooth talk delivered by yours truly. Watch out, ladies!

        • Hey now hey now, I didn’t say I’d be rude to anyone who talked to me. I’ll be polite and chatter with you; doesn’t mean I wanted to talk to you in the first place.

    • AK

      If he persistently makes unwanted advances–especially if they’re anything like the street harassment I and others have experienced (unwanted touching, vulgar/sexual language)–then no, he’s not “nice.”

  • Anonymous

    Grouping just increased 40%

  • BW


    Listen, I do know that girls get harassed by creep asses in the metro and for the life of me I can’t figure why anyone would ever want to do that. And I think they should just be able to slap the sh*t out of these creeps.

    But what if it’s crowded and I accidentally rub against someone because I practically have no choice. Then some asshat takes it the wrong way and instantly I’m a creep. Not only that, now I can be charged. A little worrisome.

    • Anonymous

      I just really doubt that’s going to happen to you and as of right now, it is completely speculation. What isn’t speculation and what IS actually happening right now, everyday, is that women are being harassed, violated, and even assaulted on the metro. If you bump into someone once, say sorry and move on. The “bumps” that are repeated and concentrated are the problems here. You’ll be fine. This isn’t about you.

      • anonymous

        i seriously believe it will happen. Lots of people get on the subway already angry and frustrated because they’ve had a bad day. Bump into one of them and I have no doubt at least one will start shrieking about harassment. Meanwhile, the real pervs will be intimidating, so no one will say anything.

        • Do you honestly think that women are so stupid that now they are going to change what they think of as harassment versus an accidental bump just because of some stupid metro posters?

          • anonymous

            I don’t recall commenting on anyone’s intelligence. The DC Metrorail system is an overcrowded mess and people are packed into the cattle cars like sardines (at least excuse my mixed metaphors). Most of them hate it, hate the office they just left and hate the entire DC area. Sometimes they overreact to getting shoved, I’ve certainly seen it before.

          • @ Anon 4:47 – You certainly inferred it. NOw that the posters are out, women are more likely to report innocent bumps as harassment, especially if they’ve “had a bad day”

        • caballero

          All it takes is one crazy (among the thousands of crazy, stressed-out women in DC) to throw a fit and blow something out of proportion. Any man who has spent any time around women knows what they are capable of. Honest women will acknowledge the same. I pity the dude who is around the wrong woman at the wrong time on the train.

          • AK

            I pity your wife.

          • Anonymous

            Did you get dumped recently or something?

          • anon

            I believe Caballero is married… but has very 1950s-esque views on women, male/female gender roles, etc.

          • Anonymous

            You are awesome. I’m glad I don’t know you in real life, but you make chats more interesting :)

          • c

            “Any man who has spent any time around women knows what they are capable of. ”

            Sir, you need to listen to “99 Problems.” It’ll channel those old fashioned attitudes into something less victim-y.

      • That’s just you. Accidental touching can well result in prosecution–what law is there to protect one from being accused of creep? Once a crazy girl starts to cream, the guy is doomed no matter what.

        • anonymous

          I really hope you meant “scream”

        • Interesting allegation. Do you have actual evidence to back that up?

        • Anonymous

          Yes, poor men. Being made victims by women since the dawn of time.

          • Uhhh yeah – Have you read the Bible? Basically since the beginning.

          • don’t forget, we also opened Pandora’s box. it must really suck to part of patriarchy.
            I’m going to read Camille Paglia on the metro that way NO ONE will bother me.

  • I really don’t think people need to worry about being reported for a genuine accident. In fact, most people I’ve talked to who have experienced harassment on crowded buses/trains say that at first, they were hesitant because they assumed it was just accidental due to crowding, etc, but then shortly after it became unambiguously clear what was actually going on.

    • anon


    • Anonymous

      Exactly. Thank you.

    • Agreed! I think harassment being under-reported for this exact reason–people are hesitant to accuse someone of being inappropriate–is way more likely than it being over-reported.

    • +1 to this. Most people, while at times a bit crazy, are quite sensible when it comes to something as significant as accusing another person of sexual harassment. Yes, there’s the possibility that some person (remember, both men and women are capable of sexual harassment, and both are capable of being the victim) will cry wolf, but I don’t think this campaign makes it substantially more likely than it is now.

  • Anon

    Why does the ad regarding WMTA not even feature a WMTA train/bus? Did they just visit Shutterstock? Couldn’t even invest the cash in this “campaign” to use unique images??

    • What gives?

      “The award-winning campaign was created by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (Boston T), who agreed to license the campaign materials to Metro at no cost.”

      It’s probably a Boston bus/train.

    • Did you even read the post?

      “The award-winning campaign was created by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (Boston T), who agreed to license the campaign materials to Metro at no cost.”

  • Anonymous

    Agreed, I think the picture is meant to show a situation where something could potentially happened. I have been on the metro in a similarly crowded scenario and the “gentleman” behind me rubbed himself repeatedly into my backside. At first, thought it was just an accident but it def was not and with the crowd there was no room to move away. I was 16 at the time and just freaked out, now I would react quite differently.

    • Anonymous

      Meant to reply to claire above.

  • Anonymous

    female only trains in Mexico City now too. I imagine this option will become part of the conversation if the problem gets worse before it gets better.

    • anon

      I think having women-only train cars is basically an admission of defeat — a sort of “We can’t rein in these poorly behaved men, so our only option is to allow you to retreat from them to a place where they can’t follow.”

      I can’t speak for Mexico, but Japanese society was pretty sexist when I lived there. There was also an emphasis on people not speaking up for themselves, not rocking the boat, etc. As a result, there was a big problem with “chikan” — perverts — groping women on crowded trains and getting away with it.

      If we got to the point where harassment and groping were so common that there was a perceived need for women-only train cars, it would be a very bad thing indeed.

    • Metro can barely manage to administer the current system (anyone notice the southbound 16th street busline this morning was at all-time comic levels of inadequacy?) I doubt metro would be able to pull off female-only cars successfully.

  • But how do they actually “catch” anyone? Sure, he just rubbed against me in a very inappropriate way, but then he jumped off the train at the next stop. Now what?

    I just hope this way we can get the ass slapper. That guy creeps me out.

    • There’s an ass slapper?! I hadn’t heard about that.

      • I’ve seen him a few times, as has the Boyfriend. He walks around with his hand out, just ready to brush/grab/slap. I think I’ve generally seen him around Metro Center/Gallery Place. Really infuriates me!

    • Perhaps creepier are the guys who think wearing a skirt is an invitation to have a smartphone jammed up your ass for a photo opportunity. I think that’s a counter-invitation to have my stilleto put through your phone, punk.

      • Given the circumstances, I can think of several more deserving places for your stiletto than their phone.

    • It seems like the idea is to have people report the incidents, and then Metro can compile a dossier on specific individuals – based on appearance or modus operandi. If the police know who/what to look for, they may be in a better place to catch and stop some of these creeps.

      As a man, I would agree woman-only trains would be a bad idea, if only because it stigmatizes all men as untrustworthy. Given that I play for the other team, it’s particularly galling, like women who eye me suspciously when we’re alone on an elevator – although I have found a good “killer shoes!” comment normally defuses the situation :-)

  • Obviously this is something Metro needs to stamp out, and it’s good to see them making an effort to raise awareness, but I feel like both the photo and the catchphrase are a bit counterproductive.

  • Anonymous

    I find an icepick is a good deterrent.

    • Heh, reminds me of my favorite line from Nicholas Cage in the Weatherman– “I carry a bow and arrow now. People don’t throw things at me anymore.”


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