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Metro Wants You To Report Sexual Harassment

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Metro train (Photo by Orbitgal via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Metro is going to be launching an awareness campaign to reduce sexual harassment, and it's about time: 22% of those who responded to a recent Metro survey said they experienced unwanted sexual behavior while riding.

Metro released a customer survey that was taken six months into 2014. Like a previous survey, the agency asked riders about sexual harassment, but this time it was worded a little differently: they asked riders if they had experienced unwanted sexual behavior including, but not limited to, touching, exposure or inappropriate comments in the past six months. 22% said yes. (Last time the question was whether riders "felt unsafe" due to harassment in the last month, and 18% said yes.)

Sexual harassment, of course, can and does happen anywhere but there's something particularly creepy about it happening in a closed space, especially, say, an underground train. And it sounds like Metro is taking it seriously.

"We don't think this is acceptable," Metro spokesman Paul Gonzales told the Los Angeles Times.

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Metro says they'll be launching an awareness campaign in April with the domestic and sexual violence group Peace Over Violence, but right now they're also asking riders to report harassment as soon as possible to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASD), which patrols buses, trains and stations. The agency asks you to put this number in your phone to report harassment: 888.950.SAFE (7233). If you don't have a phone or you don't get a signal, you can use emergency phones at rail stations or ask the bus or train operator to get in contact with the Sheriff's Department.

Last year there were 99 reports of harassment, and, of those, 37 met the legal threshold for harassment. Twenty arrests were made as a result of those reports, including unwanted touching, indecent exposure and inappropriate comments. Based on Metro surveys, the agency believes that harassment is being grossly underreported—hence the push to raise awareness about the issue and encourage reporting.

"Many people who are having this kind of experience aren't reporting it," Gonzales told the Times. "We want passengers to know this isn't a part of life."

Newer surveys will try to nail down just what kind of harassment riders are experiencing, whether it's verbal or unwanted contact, Jeff Boberg, an agency transportation manager, told the Times.

We've reached out to Metro to ask them if they have plans to train drivers and train operators to deal with harassment complaints sensitively. A few years back, we reached out to LAist readers to share their horror stories, and some of the women said that drivers didn't take their complaints seriously or in a few cases were the harassers themselves. In a statement, the agency said, "Metro's stance is that all sexual harassment complaints are legitimate and Metro and the Sheriff's Department will take those complaints seriously."