John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The 24/7 call center, staffed by professional counselors, is meant for riders who’ve experienced groping, fondling, and indecent exposure.
“People wonder why we are scared when a man harassed all of us ‘bitches’ on LA metro,” tweets one woman.
“85% of the dudes on the LA metro are in full creep mode,” reports another.
“2 hrs to get to work, sexually harassed, and barfed on,” says a third. “That was my first and last experiment with the LA metro.”
Uncomfortable experiences like these are a fact of life for many L.A. Metro riders. A 2015 survey found one in 14 Metro commuters had been groped or fondled; one in 10 reported being subjected to indecent exposure. So perhaps it’s no surprise the agency is debuting a hotline for passengers who’ve encountered sexual harassment, staffed by professional counselors and open for calls 24/7.
The round-the-clock service is the first of its kind for transit agencies around the world, according to Metro CEO Phil Washington. The agency’s Source news blog reports:
The hotline, 1-844-OFF-LIMITS (633-5464), will be staffed by counselors from the community advocacy organization Peace Over Violence, which has 45 years of experience counseling victims of sexual abuse in Los Angeles County. The hotline is a one-year pilot program.
“This 24/7 hotline is part of Metro’s commitment to keeping the system a safe space for all passengers,” said Metro Board Chair John Fasana. “Launching the round the clock sexual harassment hotline shows that Metro cares about our riders experiences and that we’re committed to their safety.”...
“A victim of sexual harassment on a bus or train might have to encounter their harasser on a daily basis while traveling to work or school,” said [Patti] Giggans, Executive Director of Peace Over Violence. “We want victims to make reports and also have the resources they need to recover in a healthy way.”
The hotline is Metro’s latest attempt to stem the tide of harassment aboard its lines. The agency recently beefed up video surveillance, updated its Code of Conduct to list specific kinds of outlawed behavior, and last spring launched a system-wide education campaign encouraging riders to report harassment. Since that campaign went into effect, the rate of known sexual harassment has dropped from 22 percent to 15 percent, according to Metro’s own surveys.