Thanks Brittnie, For Speaking Up and Speaking Out!

Check out this great op-ed article published in The Examiner written by our very own previous intern Brittnie Smith an 11th Grader from Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy! It’s always great  to see someone standing up and spreading knowledge about street harassment!

The Fear of Metro by Brittnie Smith

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) doesn’t do a good job on meeting the needs of women’s safety. From April 2009-March 2010 Holla Back DC! has received thirty-two reports of verbal sexual harassment, twelve reports of groping, (four of which were thigh grabs), four reports of physical assault, four reports of stalking, and three reports of public masturbation on public transportation. There were five incidents that were reported to either WMATA officials and/or the police. Out of the five cases, there was only one positive response, which led to the perpetrator’s arrest. This incident causes women to feel more fear than security when taking public transportation in DC.

Several reasons that women feel unsafe include: being isolated, not being around a lot of people and activity in a transportation setting adds to the fear that when help is needed no one will be there in time. Also, not seeing staff and other passengers around contributes to the concerns about safety. University of California of Los Angeles (UCLA) Anastasia Loukaitou-Siders stated “women feel less safe when there is an absence of visible staff and other passengers and are very fearful of empty transit vehicles and/or transit vehicles with only one other passenger. The setting and designs of transportation can cause fear among passengers. Being near a bad neighborhood, run-down vacant buildings, litter, or graffiti can trigger fear too. People mostly fear places where they do not have a clear view of their surroundings; this can include corners or objects that someone could hide behind. They can also feel closed in and have nowhere to escape. Tunnels and dark underground stations are more feared than open, ground- level transit facilities.

Shannon and Chai from Holla Back DC! received a story from a submitter about her experience of harassment on DC metro.

The girl stated:  “I was standing on the green line platform at Gallery Place, wearing headphones (as I generally do), and felt someone standing uncomfortably close to me. It was clear they were trying to talk to me. I turned and there was a young kid, probably 16-18, right in my face, saying something like “I like your tattoos – I need to see those tattoos up close” and, as predicted, both hands shot out for my arm. I jumped back and said, “DON’T touch me.” I would have done that with anyone, but the kid seemed… off in a way, I don’t really know how to describe it.

The metro pulled up, and I tried to move quickly to get in another car from the kid, but he was right behind me, talking in my ear the whole way. Even though I put my headphones back on, sat in a seat, and kept my head down, he kept getting in my face about seeing my tattoos, wanting my number, etc. I told him “seriously – you need to leave me alone” to which he said, “What, you ARE a woman, aren’t you? You don’t like a little attention?”

Of course it was a rush-hour-full Metro, but nobody said anything.

So, furious, I said, “Last I checked, I am a woman. A woman who is NOT interested in you, so step off…” I’m sure the kid called me a “B” or something – I have no idea. I rode WAY past my stop to make sure this kid got off the metro. I wasn’t afraid of him; I just didn’t need him following me home. It upsets me that I had to get aggressive toward him. I would think “don’t touch me” would suffice.”

Some solutions for increasing the safety for women are: increasing the number of transit police, staff, uniform, and un-uniformed police around the bus stops, stations, and the parking lots. This will improve the safety of women and everyone in general. Improvement in lighting at bus stops, train platforms, and parking lots has proven to increase how safe women feel. There should also be a phone at the bus stops, stations, and parking lots so women have a way to contact someone for help.
WMATA should consider the needs and wants of women safety. Public sexual harassment is a serious problem on DC Metro, and WMATA has not done anything yet to solve it. The incidents was either ignored or pushed to the side, but they value our safety and security.

We’re so proud of you! You’ve inspired us all to continue fighting to make the streets, and metros, of DC a safer place for everyone.