Sexual Harassment Runs Rampant on NYC Subways

by Cara on July 30, 2007

in misogyny, objectification, rape and sexual assault, sexism, sexual exploitation and harassment, violence against women and girls

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.


1 Anna July 30, 2007 at 9:17 pm

This all makes me very, VERY tired. Sick & tired. And angry as hell.

2 kate.d. July 31, 2007 at 5:25 pm

i gotta say, hollaback is one of the best things since sliced bread.

3 dew July 31, 2007 at 8:55 pm

Well, I have been actively HUMPED on the metro, but in Paris, not NYC. You go through that style, right? But sometimes your ticket gets stuck or rejected. A man had followed me very closely, and when the style didn’t move, I turned to go back out. At the moment I was sideways, he slid behind me, so that I was trapped between him and the wall, and started to hump my ass! Oh, and did I mention I was with my students? I was too stunned to say anything, and I couldn’t move. My students were also stunned, and just stood there in shock. Fortunately another adult man ripped this guy a new asshole, and the guy slid out of there and went on his way.

4 Billie August 1, 2007 at 9:12 am

It is shocking, living in NYC and not knowing one person (I’ve asked 9 of my girl friends) who has been sexually harassed or attacked on the NYC subway system.
It is terrible that it happens at all, but lets note that it’s 63% of respondents, not 63% of women, proving only that women that have been harassed are more likely to respond. And, the term ‘harassed’ is a bit vague here. Does that include whistling, cat calls, being hit on or only lewd behavior?
Sorry, I just always feel the need to defend the honor of NYC. Don’t forget we have consistently been voted the friendliest city in the USA. Imagine what it must be like in other cities!

5 Cara August 1, 2007 at 10:49 am

Um, yes, Billie, whistling, cat calls and being hit on on the subway is harassment. Of course it is. Does that change your survey?

I in no way meant to insult NYC– I’m sure that it is just as bad, if not worse in many, many cities. NYC was the only one (to their credit!) who recently released a study on the matter, though.

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