On the eve of International Women’s Day (ahem, yesterday), we met with Council Member Bowser and WMATA in two separate meetings. It was a day of follow-up meetings. We were interested to know if CM Bowser had heard back from WMATA. We were also curious as to what, if anything, WMATA was planning on doing to address our concerns about public sexual harassment and assault on the transit system.
CM Bowser expressed her commitment to push WMATA to do something, at minimum the public service awareness campaign and trainings. We talked to her about our concerns about the gap in law where in DC police (not true in MD/VA) have to see someone committing a misdemeanor to arrest them. This affects individuals who report indecent exposure, public masturbation, etc. Unless the cops see it, nothing can happen. Even if the person took a picture of the perpetrator in action. It’s essentially a free pass to perpetrators: Come to DC! Yikes. CM Bowser wants to address this issue and is figuring out ways to do so.
After that meeting, we had a lunch break. Thank goodness of the great weather yesterday that kept us company.
As we walked over the WMATA headquarters for our 2P meeting, we kept wondering outloud what WMATA would share with us. We were escorted to a conference room where some Senior level WMATA officials were sitting including Lynn Bowersox (Director of Communications), Dan Stessel (Chief Spokesperson), Regina Sullivan (Director of Government Relations), Michael Taborn (Chief of Transit Police), and others.
After an hour and half, we walked away with WMATA pledging to do a public service awareness campaign, launching as soon as April, technology upgrades to include a webportal for individuals to submit their experiences with harassment and assault, a newly dedicated email address on this issue (where people can upload pics/video), new trainings to ALL staff, and quarterly data reports on harassment and sex crimes.
Yeah, you read that correctly.
Data collection on harassment and sex crimes.
A dedicated email address and webportal (and specialized hashtag and possibly other techie things).
More & better trainings.
YEAH. yeah. yeAH!
You did it. Your tenacity to share stories of harassment and assault everywhere, including those that happen on the metro, is creating a culture of change in the nation’s 2nd largest transit system. That is big, really boombastic B.I.G.
Of course, our work isn’t done (this is not a Mission Accomplished moment). They have to launch it. It has to succeed. But, instead of being critical, let’s pause and celebrate this first step.
Have a glass of wine, bubbly water, beer or two in celebration of this on International Women’s Day.
Chai, your humble servant.
P.S. Feel moved and want to get involved? Shoot us an email at info at collectiveactiondc.org.