“I Intervened in Sexual Harassment Taking Place on the Metro”

An anti-sexual harassment ad put in place by WMATA as a result of CASS’s campaigning.

Location: Yellow Line, DC Metro
Time: Late Night (12am-5am)

I was on the Metro last night, coming home by myself. I was seated next to a group of three young men, who were talking to a young woman. Although their attentions would have made me uncomfortable, she appeared to be flirting back, so I didn’t say anything. The young men then started making comments about their friend at the other end of the car. I looked down, and saw a fourth young man talking to a young woman who clearly did not want the attention. I thought about intervening, knowing that the most cutting-edge public health research on sexual harassment focuses on the role of bystanders. But honestly, it was 1 am on the Metro, I was alone, and I was afraid of what would happen to me if I pissed off a group of four guys.

So anyway, the young man eventually left the woman alone and came to join his friends. He made several derogatory comments about her, to them. I thought it was over, but then he went back two more times to badger her, even though she was yelling at him to leave her alone. Finally I said something to his friends. I told them that she clearly didn’t want this attention, and that they should pull him off her. As predicted, they turned it back on me, and started making degrading sexual comments to me.

Finally we reached our stop. Everyone got out. I checked to make sure that the young woman was ok. She told me she was drunk, but not so drunk that she didn’t know what was going on. And that she had mace in her purse and felt fine. On my way out, I reported the incident to the station manager. He was actually super polite and took the whole thing seriously. He told me that there is a Metro police officer on the platform, and that he would keep an eye on it until the guys left.

The whole thing made me feel scared and unsafe, and extremely disempowered. Most of all, I was upset that my fear for my own safety kept me from intervening. I don’t feel guilty; self preservation is important, too. But I was sad that that’s the way reality works.

Emphases by CASS.
Submitted 12/8/13 by “RB.”

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Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault? Submit your story to help raise awareness about the pervasiveness and harmful effects of street harassment. All submissions are posted anonymously unless otherwise specified.

If you experience or have experienced sexual harassment on the DC Metro system: Whether the event is happening at the moment or occurred months ago, we strongly encourage you to report to Metro Transit Police (MTP): www.wmata.com/harassment or 202-962-2121. Reporting helps identify suspects as well as commons trends in harassment. Recommended tip: Program MTP’s number into your phone so you can easily reach them when needed. If you need assistance in coping with public sexual harassment or assault, please contact the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) 24/7 crisis hotline at 202-333-RAPE (202-333-7279).

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