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Woman Sexually Assaulted On Metro Bus

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(Photo by Chris via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Metro authorities are looking into the reported sexual assault of a woman riding the bus on Thursday.NBC L.A. reports that a woman who was on the 720 bus heading Downtown on Thursday afternoon felt a man rub up against her, and not in an accidental "oops, sorry, pothole," kind of way.

"The bus was crowded and a guy was rubbing his crotch against me," said the woman, who did not wish to be identified. "Thank God it was not out of his pants but it was pretty noticeable." The woman reported the man to the bus driver, and got off the bus.

Metro's Paul Gonzalez said the incident was reported to the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, and that they'll be looking at surveillance footage.

"She did the right thing. She told the bus operator, he made a report and got an investigation started," Gonzales said to NBC. "We're going to be looking for this person, and if we find him, we're going to arrest him and we're going to prosecute him."

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Before you think this creep's actions are small potatoes compared to the horrific things that happen to women every day, consider first that sexual harassment and assault is a shockingly routine occurrence for riders aboard L.A. public transit. It doesn't get nearly the attention it should, especially when it comes to conversations about getting more people to "Go Metro." It's much easier to talk about expanding service and building shiny new trains than it is rider safety instead.

Last year, the L.A. Times reported that thousands of commuters said they were sexually harassed while riding Metro in just a six-month period. It's dizzying to try to comprehend how many more incidents of harassment and assaults go unreported. The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) says that 68% of overall assaults are not reported to police, so it's a reasonable conclusion that this is the case with incidents that happen aboard transit as well.

It's more difficult to quantify "sexual harassment," but as someone who relies on Metro buses to get around the city, and the 720 line particularly often (the most-boarded Metro bus in L.A.), I can say that unfortunately, this most recent (reported) incident does not surprise me in the least.

In 2012, a mentally ill woman was raped for 10 minutes on a 217 bus. That same year, another woman wrote about a harasser on the Blue Line who yelled (among other things) "IF I HAD A GUN I'D SHOOT YOU I WOULD FUCKING KILL YOU BITCH." And here's another piece we ran in which a dozen women recounted times they were harassed on Metro. And another one. The frightening thing is, is that this is just a tiny sliver of what's happened to women (and yes, men too) on Metro.

Sexual harassment and assault on public transit is not unique to Los Angeles. But while we're debating how to deal with a complicated, contradictory Metro system, can rider safety be a part of the conversation? Reporting "routine" incidents like this would be a good place to start.