WMATA Launches Anti-Sexual Harassment Campaign

by Katie Pyzyk April 5, 2012 at 9:32 am 6,968 90 Comments

Metro has officially embarked on an awareness campaign to fight incidents of sexual harassment against people using the system.

“This purpose of this outreach is to let people know that it’s not okay to sexually harass people on Metro,” said Metro General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles on WMATA’s website. “We are encouraging anyone who may be harassed to report the incident to Metro Transit Police.”

Phase one included this week’s launch of an online reporting system. Victims have the option of remaining anonymous, but all reports will be sent directly to Metro Transit Police. An email address, [email protected], has also been set up to allow customers to send photos or video to assist in an investigation.

According to the website, reportable behavior includes “extended leering, sexual comments, indecent exposure, stalking and groping.” Even if an incident doesn’t seem like a crime, victims are asked to still report what happened so Metro can spot trends and try to prevent future crimes from occurring. Right now, WMATA does not track such statistics.

“Prior to this initiative, we were not collecting data on reported harassment that did not rise to the level of a crime,” said WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel. “Over the next few months, we will track the data, develop a baseline for future comparisons, and report statistics publicly on a quarterly basis.”

A number of Arlington incidents of harassment on Metro have been made public over the last couple of years. An apparent repeat offender at the Courthouse station was reported to police by at least one woman whom he grabbed after taking a cell phone photo up her skirt. Another apparent repeat offender has been reported at the Pentagon stop in posts on the advocacy website Collective Action for Safe Spaces.

“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,” Collective Action for Safe Spaces Co-founder Chai Shenoy said on WMATA’s website. “We see this partnership as a step in the right direction and a model for other transit agencies around the world to follow.”

As part of the anti-harassment initiative, soon customers will see posters for the campaign displayed on buses and in train stations. Materials will be handed out throughout the system. Metro is also working on enhancing training for its employees on the front lines.

  • meh..

    wait…so is she or HE the offender in this pic?

    • Mac

      its the creeper in the back behind her head. He just pinched her…

      • Quoth the Raven

        I’m sure that guy is happy he’s in the photo advertising this program.

    • Swag

      Silly, men cannot be sexually harassed.

    • CW

      I don’t know, but either the unhappy woman is like 4’11” or the lady in the green tank top could probably start for the Wizards.

      • G Clifford Prout

        She’s getting a better angle on his junk.

        • nom de guerre

          The angle of the dangle is inversely proportional to the heat of the meat.

  • x

    old news arlnow

    • MC 703

      I didn’t know. Thanks ARLNOW

      • PUP


        • DERPHERP


  • nitpicker

    According to this poster, getting on a packed train is sexual harassment.

    • drax

      Yep. I have no doubt that there is real harassment on Metro, but how many sexual harassment claims are simply innocent, inadvertent brushes on a crowded train?

      • Corey

        It’s pretty easy to tell the difference.

        • drax

          Actually, no, sometimes it is very hard to tell the difference, and I shouldn’t have to explain that either.

          • Corey

            You’re an idiot if you can’t tell the difference between an innocent brush on a crowded train and repeated groping/grabbing.

          • drax

            No, I’m not an idiot, Corey.

            It is quite obvious that there is room for error on a crowded train. It’s attitudes like yours that make it hard to deal with real sexual harassment.

            I am not talking about the difference between “an innocent brush on a crowded train and repeated groping/grabbing”. I am talking about the space between those two things. Stop pretending that doesn’t exist.

          • bobco85

            That is a straw man. drax said nothing about repeated groping/grabbing, but only about an innocent brush.

            Look at this typical rush-hour situation: on a crowded train with people standing close to or up against each other, there’s going to be contact between people. Determining whether the contact is innocent (losing balance, weight shifting, adjusting their backpack/purse, etc.) or perverse (grabbing, fondling, etc.) requires a lot of questions to be answered. Some of these include: Was the contactor staring at the contactee, staring at a certain part of the body, being distracted by texting/checking their phone, standing with their arm resting on their side, etc.? Lastly, if you aren’t paying attention or don’t witness it, whether it be due to sleepiness, distraction, daydreaming, line-of-sight being blocked, etc., how are you supposed to tell? Sure, there are blatantly obvious actions, but for the rest it can be quite difficult to determine the motive.

          • drax


        • Right…

          Unless you want to file a complaint and think for any reason that there’s some “reward” in the end to settle the complaint… this will do nothing but trump up false claims based on getting on an orange line train at Rosslyn going west at 6PM. Stupid.

    • SomeGuy

      Could the goal here be to drum up sexual assault claims across the board so ACPD can meet their quotas?

      I’m not sure about the jurisdictional agreements between Metro police and ACPD, but maybe they figure that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

      • TGEoA

        Heh. Rising.

  • HayCaramba

    how about when i get pushed getting onto the train, do i expose the rubber and also get counter exposed by the one i’m rubbing? I’m gonna have to walk around metro with a GoPro camera strapped on my belt.. .. wait.. no.. hmm..

  • ArLater

    “Metro is also working on enhancing training for its employees on the front lines.”

    …They first need to be trained to actually do every day activies, such as staying awake in their little control booth of theirs, before I would believe they could accurately detect sexual harrassment.

  • novasteve

    According to the website, reportable behavior includes “extended leering, sexual comments.

    They are going to run into first amendment problems.

    • Corey

      Harassment is not protected by the first amendment.

      • novasteve

        harassment is subjective. Should I be able to have someone thrown into jail for being pro gay marriage, pro abortion, or pro raising taxes? Some people find those things offensive.

        • drax

          “Being” something, or simply having or expressing an opinion, isn’t harassment by any definition, steve.

        • Corey

          Opinions and harassment are not the same thing.

          • Bluemontsince1961


          • nom de guerre

            You have magnificent breasteses. Is that an opinion or harassment?

          • drax


            As opposed to what steve said, which was “being pro gay marriage, pro abortion, or pro raising taxes.” Simply having opinions isn’t harassment. Heck, steve wasn’t even specifying any action at all, just thoughts.

      • novasteve

        Think this over. Harassment is subjective. If a gay guy hits on me, and I’m terribly offended by it, that guy should get jailed if I think it’s harassment? They are saying basically that you can report it to the police if someone is “leering” at you. It’s the metro, people zone out and stare. Not everyone is going to stare at the floor to avoid eye contact like the antisocial cowards that infest this area. So you can be jailed for looking at someone?

        • drax

          Yes, I agree that it is subjective. Your examples aren’t even remotely within that subjective zone, but there is a zone.

          • Maria

            Actually, his example of someone hitting on someone else isn’t necessarily extreme. Lots of people take things the wrong way (same sex or otherwise), so subjectivity is there, unfortunately.

            That said, just because someone might REPORT something as harassment doesn’t mean it IS, and that’s where the police, if involved, would need to figure it out.

            All THAT said, I don’t really think this is going to lead to anything different. People generally know they can report instances of harassment, but most choose to just ignore it because it’s a hassle for something that, in the grand scheme of things, is probably pretty minor (not talking about groping/grabbing, but things like “excessive leering”). I’m not sure an awareness campaign will change that.

          • drax

            I meant his earlier examples of having opinions, sorry.

            Yes, hitting on someone is a great example of where one party may see harassment but not the other.

          • Maria

            Yes, the opinions example doesn’t fit at all.

  • SomeGuy

    Who’s committing the violation in this picture? I think I’d feel most violated by the person taking the picture.

    • Ackbar

      it’s a trap!

    • JamesE

      Metro’s budget is violating everyone in that photo

  • novasteve

    So are they basically going to have signs up now saying that if you don’t stare at the floor or ceiling the entire duration you could get arrested?

    What will it sound like? If you don’t look like Clooney or Brad Pitt, please stare at the floor


    • Swag

      The first rule of the Metro is that you never look at people. Taking said rule into consideration, it could be assumed that even a glance could be considered “extended leering”.

  • DarkHeart

    Does that smelly pit stain count as harassment?

    • awh hells bells

      Or what about crop-dusting? Nothing worse than enduring a hit and run attack and having people grimace at you.

  • Ace

    Your gun is sticking into me!

    • DarkHeart

      Looks like a “gub” to me.

  • Tabs

    I don’t know if some posters here just never have real-life conversations with women, but it’s apparent that many of you have no clue how prevalent (and abhorrent) sexual harassment is.

    I was on a very crowded train coming from Nationals stadium, and a middle-aged white guy (ginger) pushed onto the train and grabbed and squeezed–hard and painfully–my right breast as he pushed through. I was stunned, but am no shrinking violet, and screamed “hey! get off my boob!” Someone told me to kick him in the nuts, and I said “I tried! There was nothing there!” which made several people laugh heartily. He was shamed off the train at the next stop.

    • ArlingtonChick

      Why is the fact that he was a ginger relevant to this instance of sexual harassment?

      And yes, dudes are pretty gross on trains. When I was a kid, a dude used a crowded train to try to rub up against me with his…well, let’s just say, it was pretty gross and inappropriate and he was dressed nicely and going to work. I moved instead of saying something, but I was too young to speak out for myself.

      • Swag

        Of course it is. Gingers have no souls.

        • Tabs

          Thanks. 😉

        • ArlingtonChick

          Someone’s been watching too much South Park.

    • drax

      I don’t see any comments here that indicate that anyone thinks real harassment isn’t prevalent or abhorent.

      I would have kicked that guy in the nuts for you.

      • Tabs

        I appreciate that.

    • Juanita de Talmas

      You sound as if you think sexual harassment is only a male-on-female problem. I assure you, it can go the other way as well (as well as same-sex).

      • Tabs

        I really don’t think that women are grabbing men’s genitals on the Metro, or rubbing their clits against a man’s butt for arousal, no.

        Do you?

        • JamesE

          That is because the guy never reports it!

          • Quoth the Raven

            At least not officially. But to friends, absolutely.

          • Arlingtoon

            That presumes that he ever gets off the train, rather than continually riding back and forth, hoping for a repeat performance.

        • drax

          That’s not the only kind of harassment possible.

        • PUP

          oo u said a knotty word!

  • G Clifford Prout

    Actually, the more I think about this, the more I want to ride Metro. I could use a little leering these days. Sad.

    • Tabs

      C’mon, Cliff. You know where to go.

  • CW

    To completely avoid the actual topic, can I get some grammar nerds to comment on whether or not this is appropriate hyphen usage? This always kills me when I see this. Because the hypen kind of serves to make the two words it connects into a contraction, right? So the way it’s written now is making the “harassment” “anti-sexual”, isn’t it?

    • wat

      I’m almost certain you are correct in that the way it is written now it is implying that the campaign is against regular harassment. Anti-sexual = nonsexual. Anti-sexual harassment = harassment. However, I don’t think it’s at the fault of ArlNow, as Fox5, Washington Post, WMATA, DCIST, etc all seem to be using the phrase the same way. I’d guess they are just using the naming convention that WMATA used.

      • wat

        Actually I found this
        Do not hyphenate words prefixed by non, un, in, dis, co, anti, hyper, pre, re, post, out, bi, counter, de, semi, mis, mega, micro, inter, over, and under (among others).

        Examples: nonaffiliated, nonemergency, uninfected, inpatient, disorder, disbar, coworker, copayment, antismoking, antimanagement, hyperactive, hyperrealism, preoperative, prejudge, reoccur, readjust, resubmit, postoperative, posttraumatic, outpatient, outmoded, bimonthly, biannual, counterrevolutionary, counterculture, decompress, semifinal, semiannual, misinformed, misprint, megabyte, microcircuit, interconnected, interoffice, overemphasize, override, underrepresent, underestimated.

        EXCEPTIONS: When the second element is capitalized, as in Un-American and non-English, a hyphen is used. Also, occasional exceptions exist where the prefix and the second element have not (yet) “grown together,” such as de-emphasize, pre-owned, co-op (to distinguish from coop) and anti-inflammatory (and all words with anti- prefix and second element beginning with i),

        NOTE: When a prefixed word does not appear in the regular listings in the dictionary, go back to the listing for the prefix itself; many dictionaries give a supplementary list of words here, without definitions. For example, such a list may appear on or near the entry for “non-.”

        Since this is a title article, and the name of a campaign, it seems that it is accepted. However a better name probably would have been, “WMATA Launches Campaign Against Sexual Harassment.”

        • CW

          Agreed, and agreed. The real best way if we could redo English would just be to make everything into compound words – so we’d have anti-sexualharassment.

          And @ the first response, definitely not ARLnow’s fault. I actually first noticed this spelling on the WMATA site yesterday but was compelled to ask the question when it showed up here.

          • drax

            Like German does.

            Real German word:


            (translation: “beef labeling regulation and delegation of supervision law”)

          • CW

            That’s exactly what I was thinking, seriously…so in this case it would be anti-sexualharaBment.

    • drax

      It’s correct, but yeah, it’s confusing. That’s English for ya.

      The better choice would be something like “campaign against sexual harassment.”

      • SomeGuy

        I think we should all start harassing anti-sexuals, and then claim that WMATA’s campaign told us to do it.

  • wat

    So I double checked the consent for recording laws in MD, DC, and VA. In MD photographing, or making audio or video recordings requires the consent of all parties involved.

    If metro is advocating “An email address, [email protected], has also been set up to allow customers to send photos or video to assist in an investigation.”, this is only legal in DC and VA, where the law states that only 1 involved person needs to give consent. This means if you are the one being harassed in one of those two localities you can record the situation. However you cannot be a good citizen and capture the scenario for someone else.

    • CW

      There has to be implied consent, I’d think. What about security cameras? Is there a provision that the property owner can have it so that there is some sort of implied consent once you step onto their property?

      • wat

        Ah, I was forgetting that this was a private property/public place scenario. Generally if a place has a sign before entering a mall/store/etc. saying that you may be under surveillance, simply entering is giving your consent.

    • Corey

      If you’re in public, you can be recorded. End of story.

  • 7-11 guy

    I’m quite capable of exposing myself thankyou very much

  • R0bespierre

    Leering can be very subjective but there are more than a few creeps out there who do really vile things like repeatedly rubbing their unwanted erections up against women they don’t even know. This is an insult to a woman’s privacy and self-determination and it is not a joke.

    Unless you’re on a dance floor at a club where physical contact can be a form of introduction, chances are that 99/100 times a woman going about her day does not want any physical contact with a man she doesn’t even know, and the fact that so many clueless men with cowardly perversions don’t realize this is why laws like this even have to happen.

    The cowards never do this when other men are around either, we almost always hear about it after the fact, which makes it even creepier and more premeditated.

    • Quoth the Raven

      Now I see why I wasn’t more successful with women while in college! I wasn’t rubbing my junk against them by way of introduction!

  • drax

    “chances are that 99/100 times a woman going about her day does not want any physical contact with a man she doesn’t even know”

    Correct. And yet we are forced to have physical contact with each other on a crowded Metro train. Hence the potential for false accusations of harassment (and for lots of real harassment too).

  • novasteve

    Serious question here, given how crowded metro gets, and you find yourself in a situation where a woman’s rear end is touching your crotchall area. Can you be arrested if you get an erection? I mean, she moved there. I’m no longer a teen, and it’s not an issue for me, but what about someone who could be easily aroused? it’s involuntary, but I can see out of political correctness someone being charged criminally for it. People really do stand that close.

    • drax

      Turn around.

      • geezer

        don’t point that thing at me!!!

    • nom de guerre

      Do what Japanese people do in erections-VOTE!


    This reminds me of a billboard ad campaign I saw some years ago a run-down part of Connecticut. It showed a jail cell and had the slogan “Rob the cradle and this could be your crib.”

    Seriously – is there really a need for ad campaigns like these? PRETDERF

  • whatever dude

    I’m a little concerned about this “extended leering” concept of harassment. I have a good friend who has the old lazy eye and I can’t even tell you how many times people have asked him why he is staring at them and he’ll reply that he isn’t, just looks that way because of the lazy eye. I’m sure the lazy eye lobby will not be happy about this.

    And to me it is clear as can be that in the photo above it is clearly the tall woman (or potentially crossdresser) who is the one doing the harassment as her left arm/hand is obviously grabbing the junk of the suit guy on the left.

  • Jason S.

    One person’s harassment is another person’s flirting.

  • PUP

    i knew the comments on this article would be great.

  • ArLater

    I cant wait to tell everyone on the Orange crush tonight that if they happen to bump/touch/look at me tonight while were packed in from Rosslyn to Courthouse that I am going to report them! Finally figured out a way to beat that hell of a ride! FTW!

  • gnushell

    When I was younger every time a wedding ring clad guy rubbed against me on Metro, I would scream asking it their wife knew about this behavior. Guy was always off at the next stop.


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