Exposing Sexual Harassment on the Subways


Sexual harassment on the subway is a big problem that nobody is talking about, Borough President Scott Stringer said today, releasing a report “Hidden in Plain Sight, Sexual Harassment and Assault in the New York City Subway System” during a press conference at Union Square. Of 1,800 people who responded to an online survey conducted by Stringer’s office, 63 percent said they have experienced some form of sexual harassment on the subways.

Ten percent said they have been sexually assaulted on the train, and 69 percent of those surveyed said they have felt the threat of sexual assault or harassment while riding the train.

“For far too long in New York City, there’s been a credo that what happens underground stays underground,” Manhattan Borough Stringer said in a statement. “That feeds a system where women, especially, are victimized, and instead of fighting back, become afraid, ashamed, and believe that nothing can be done. We’re talking about crimes that are hidden in plain sight. In fact, it is hard to find a woman who rides the subway who hasn’t been harassed – or who doesn’t know someone who has been. Our goal is to raise the profile of these crimes, so that the police can formulate a plan to combat them, and so that the victims can be empowered to fight back.”

While one brave rider made news in 2005 when she snapped an infamous photo of Dan Hoyt, the Manhattan restaurateur pictured exposing himself below, the study found that 96 percent of the respondents who said they were sexually harassed did not report it to authorities.

Hoyt received two years probation for public lewdness

Stringer’s report made a series of recommendations including:

* Ensuring that the NYPD tracks subway sexual harassment and assault crimes as stand-alone offenses; tracks the prevalence of these crimes across time, borough, individual subway lines, and stations; and makes all of these statistics publicly available and easily accessible.
* Increasing NYPD presence on subway trains and in subway stations.
* Introducing and upgrading needed safety amenities throughout the transit network.
* Launching an ongoing public awareness campaign to educate riders about the risk of sexual harassment and assault in the subway system, preventive measures that riders can take, steps that victims of sexual harassment and assault can take to seek support, and the overall importance of reporting sexual harassment and assault incidents to authorities.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne issued a statement in response: “The NYPD’s Transit Bureau actively looks for individuals engaged in sexual abuse and lewdness on the subways, arresting 119 so far this year,” Browne said. “These arrests come at a time of record low crime in the transit system.”

Everyone, it seems, has a story of being harassed on the subway. What’s yours?