CTA Bus Drivers have Problems with the New Harassment Policies

posted in: WMATA, CASS Updates | 3
Photo by Daquella manera via flickr

Since WMATA doesn’t have its own anti-sexual harassment PSAsor published information about how WMATA employees should handle and respond to sexual harassment on our trains or buses, we follow what is going on in other cities and we LOVE to askWMATA, “what the heck? why are we so far behind?”

Last week we reported on the new policies implemented in Chicago. Thanks to some amazing young activists, the CTA told operators to tell perpetrators to stop their behavior and if needed, call for backup.

Apparently the bus drivers are not so thrilled about this new policy. According to the Chicago Sun-Times:

The head of the CTA bus drivers union said drivers can’t be expected to defend passengers from sexual harassment without proper backup from transit managers and Chicago Police.

“You’re putting our people in more harm by directing them to get involved in curbing harassment on a bus when you’re not offering them any protection,” said Darrell Jefferson, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 241.

Jefferson was responding to initiatives the CTA unveiled earlier this month to curb sexual and other types of harassment on CTA trains and buses.

Jefferson said he didn’t mind the policy — he wants passengers to be safe. But he doesn’t want bus drivers to get into trouble for telling disruptive passengers to knock it off, and he wants police to come promptly when called. Read the full article here.

What do you think, Washingtonians? What kind of anti-sexual harassment policies and PSAs does WMATA need?

3 Responses

  1. Isaiah Toney

    I think that bus drivers should proactively defend passengers, but that without the necessary measures, they shouldn’t be asked to put themselves in harm’s way. I’m not saying that drivers should be allowed to do nothing I’m saying that coordinating with the police department and transit managers has to come in the same motion as requiring drivers to respond to violence of any kind on their buses.

  2. Z

    What should we do in the moment in response to gender based harassment in the city? What does one do when someone says “Hey baby” or makes a vulgar gesture? I mean, if someone touches me, my martial arts training may kick in, and I can justify self defense. But verbally? Or from a distance?

    • hollabackdc

      There are a lot of different ways to respond to gender based harassment and we’ve heard about individuals employing a lot of different methods. One thing we always keep in mind is that there is no one right way to respond. We have to gauge our responses on a variety of different factors such as our sense of safety and what we feel most comfortable with.

      At Holla Back DC, we personally believe in nonviolent methods that engage our oppressors as well as give us our own power back. We learned these methods from one of our sheros, Marty Langelan. One of the great things about using nonviolent confrontation is that it will surprise your perpetrator.

      These methods are from Marty Langelan’s book Back Off: How to Confront and Stop Sexual Harassment and Harassers (Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 1993).

      Name the behavior. Describe exactly what the harasser is doing, stating behavior (“you are exposing yourself”), principle (“this is about respect”) and a direct command (“put that penis back in your pants right now”).

      Interrupt the harasser with this all-purpose statement: “Stop harassing. I don’t like it—no one likes it. Show some respect.”

      Put up a “stop sign.” Put your hands in front of your chest, palms out, look the harasser in the eye and say, “Stop right there.”

      Make an A-B-C statement. “When you do A [when you say “hey sexy” for example], the effect is B [it makes me uncomfortable] and I want C [from now on just say “hello”].”

      Ask a Socratic question.(One of our personal favorites.) “That’s so interesting—can you explain why you think you can put your hand on my leg?” The more idiotic the action the more impossible it will be for the harasser to explain.

      Here are some additional verbal defense suggestions from one of our other sheros, Lauren Taylor from Defend Yourself.

      Remember when using nonviolent confrontation it is important to stay calm (no insults, sarcasm, cursing or yelling), stand tall, make eye contact and use a matter-of-fact voice. Don’t smile or undermine your message.

      The most important thing to remember is to only use these methods when you feel safe enough to use them. If you feel unsafe, get away from your perpetrator as soon as possible.