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This is reprinted from today’s Metro and was written by HollabackNYC co-founder, Emily May.
The MTA’s notoriously sketchy accounting has bled over from their ledgers into their crime stats. For the past three years, the MTA has declared a drop in crime on the subways. This is great news for straphangers — as long as they don’t mind a little harassment, assault or public masturbation on their morning commute.
The MTA’s crime statistics only tell part of the story — tracking felonies, but hiding common, threatening misdemeanors. At a forum on public safety in Chelsea, subway riders spoke out about the persistence of these crimes, which are often discrimination-based and disproportionately affect women, minorities and LGBT folk. Their stories were everyday occurrences. Take Alice, who woke from a morning snooze on the D train last month to find a man masturbating over her; or Elizabeth, a lesbian, who was followed through the station by a man repeatedly shouting “cunnilingus.”
While the experience of harassment and assault is widespread, our access to information on these crimes is severely limited. In 2007, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s office released the only report to date on the issue. According to the report, 63 percent of riders are harassed on the subway, and 10 percent are assaulted. With 5 million people riding the subway every weekday, it is fair to say that these crimes are at epidemic proportions.
The MTA’s recent anti-harassment PSAs suggest victims contact an “MTA worker or police officer.” This is an empty gesture; personnel cuts have made station attendants scarce. Riders lucky enough to find help are “ignored” or told “there isn’t much they can do,” according to posts on HollabackNYC.com.
The subways have come a long way since the ’70s, but cleaner trains are not necessarily safer. If we are going to herald our improvements in transit safety, “strikes, shoves and kicks,” “following a person in a public place,” harassment and other misdemeanors must be included in the MTA’s crime count. Until we have safety transparency in our subway, these crimes will continue to stand clear of the closing doors.
After tracking harassment, masturbation, and assault on the New York City transit system for over three years, we decided to take action. We recently co-founded New Yorkers for Safe Transit – the only coalition dedicated to eliminating sexual assault and hate violence—particularly gender- or discrimination-based— within NYC’s public transit system.
In response to an ongoing rash of sexual assaults and harassment occurring in the subways, New Yorkers for Safe Transit (NYFST) is hosting a forum for concerned community members and anti-violence activists to analyze the rampancy of gender-based violence in the New York City public transit system and discuss strategies to address this problem. Please join us:
DATE: Monday, June 8th, 2009
TIME: 7 PM – 9PM
LOCATION: Brecht Forum, 451 West St. (btwn. Bank & Bethune)
Emily May from HollabackNYC, Doyin Ola from RightRides, Veronica Tirado from Girls for Gender Equity, and Cate Contino from the Straphangers Campaign, are expected to speak on issues including budget cuts, organizing straphangers, addressing violence, and making change within our public transit system.
During the forum, participants will share with one another practical ways to avoid, deescalate and prevent violence and harassment on public transit.
Hope to see you there!
This is the second in the series.
Submitted by Sally N.
As part of a new initiative, we are going to be taking an in depth look at one woman’s experiences being street harassed in New York City. We will reveal a new photo each day for the next month. The photos were submitted by Sally N., a New York City resident, and will be posted in chronological order. We believe these pictures tell the story of what it’s like to be a women in the big apple.
This is the first in the series.
a film by Jonah Levy
And so we advertise to sustain the revolution:
Caught in the act of LAME.
This horrific story reminds us that without a trained and sensitive staff at the MTA, those beautiful subway ads that we worked so hard to get up are useless. The Subway Safety Coalition, of which HollabackNYC is a part of, will be drafting letters to the heads of the MTA, the transporation committees in the New York State Senate and Assembly, as well as to the Public Safety Committee in the City Council.
To do your part, send a letter to the editor of the Daily News at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember to include your full name, address and phone number.