“The changes that Metro is making to address public sexual harassment and assault is a testament to the hundreds of stories we received on our site. We see this partnership as a step in the right direction and a model for other transit agencies around the world to follow.”
— Chai Shenoy, co-founder, Collective Action for Safe Spaces
In February 2012, Collective Action for Safe Spaces began an official campaign for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to implement policy to address sexual harassment and assault on the DC metro. By April 2012, WMATA responded by introducing its first-ever public awareness campaign to combat sexual harassment of customers while using the system. Below, here is a reverse timeline of our ongoing relationship.
- After a spike in reports of harassment across our city — especially targeting people of color, LGBTQ and gender nonconforming people, and people who are part of multiple marginalized groups, the new awareness campaign has three goals:
- Support people who experience harassment with messages letting riders know they deserve to be treated with respect.
- Promote a culture of bystander intervention, where everyone is responsible for speaking out against harassment and making public transit safer.
- Elevate our city’s most marginalized identities by featuring the faces of people who are part of marginalized groups, such as trans women of color and Muslim women, who face harassment most severely and most frequently.
- In addition to training for WMATA’s frontline staff and supervisors, this anti-harassment campaign helps to create a culture of safety and community accountability. The project is a collaboration between Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), Stop Street Harassment, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).
- Following months of collaboration with CASS and Stop Street Harassment, WMATA releases its second round of anti-sexual harassment PSAs since the Anti-Sexual Harassment Campaign was established in 2012. The PSAs differ from the first round in that they use gender neutral language and in part address perpetrators of sexual harassment, rather than just those who are harassed.
- CASS meets with WMATA to follow up on its anti-harassment work, including feedback CASS has received from the community, positive outcomes, and the continuing need for WMATA to implement staff training on sexual harassment and assault.
- WMATA updates its online reporting portal to enable Metro-riders to more comprehensively report incidents of sexual harassment or assault.
- Julia Strange, Director of Programs and Policy, testifies on behalf of CASS at the DC Council’s performance oversight hearing on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA).
- Ads instructing metro-goers on how to report incidents of sexual harassment are displayed at 28 metro stations.
- The new posters, fliers 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.
- Metro Transit Police continue unprecedented tracking of all reports of sexual harassment incidents – even those that do not rise to the level of a crime.
- The data will be used to identify trends and deploy officers as necessary, and will be reported publicly to Metro’s Board of Directors on a quarterly basis.
- An effort to enhance training for Metro frontline employees is also in development.
- Metro continues developing the campaign with CASS as well as the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) and Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN).
- The first phase of WMATA’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Campaign is launched.
- The campaign includes an online portal for individuals to report incidents to Metro Transit Police, along with improved data tracking of incidents.
- 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 also establishes an email address to allow victims to send photo or video files to assist an investigation.
- CASS attends the February 22nd DC Council Performance Oversight Hearing on WMATA to Recommend How to Prevent Sexual Harassment and Assault
- CASS — accompanied by private citizens and street harassment expert, Holly Hearl — testifies about public sexual harassment and assault that occurs on the transit system.
- CASS’s testimony stems from hundreds of incidents of public sexual harassment the group collected over three years — at least 30 percent of which took place on or around transit stations, trains, buses or bus stops.
- CASS recommends a three-pronged approach to curtailing these crimes: In addition to a public awareness campaign, CASS testifies for WMATA to collect data on sexual harassment and train employees and Transit police on how to address sexual harassment.