This may not come to a shock to those of you who live in NYC, but it sure as hell came as a shock to me. A new study conducted in NYC showed that sixty three percent of respondents had been sexually harassed on the subway, and ten percent had been sexually assaulted. Women comprised two-thirds of respondents, two-third of those who reported being sexually harassed, and 99% of those who reported being sexually assaulted. Very few ever reported the harassment or attack.
Politicians are now calling for more police on the subway system. And while I think that’s a very important start, I certainly don’t think that it’s the whole story. It simply creates a system of “behaving” when police are around, and continuing to harass and assault when they are not.
I think that a two-fold education campaign is also in order. Firstly, a campaign is needed to discourage would-be harassers, most of whom probably see their behavior, bizarrely, as benign. It’s fucked up, but it’s true. Or it wouldn’t keep happening, and it wouldn’t keep going ignored. So we need to explain, very carefully, that this behavior is not appreciated, not cute, not benign and potentially criminal. The second campaign should be to educate victims about how to report their harassers, sending a clear message that what is happening is wrong and something should be done about it.
And, it’s a consolation, but when the offender’s behavior doesn’t technically constitute anything criminal, you can– and should– always holla back.