Los Angeles is set to become the first city in the world to offer a sexual harassment hotline for all public transport passengers.
The 24/7 hotline will be run by the city’s not-for-profit sexual violence and abuse prevention agency, Peace Over Violence, with phone lines staffed by specially trained counsellors. The agency has already been running its own hotline for survivors of rape and battery for more than 45 years.
When the hotline launches, anyone who experiences harassment on public transport will be able to ring the number to talk through the incident with a counsellors and receive advice and information on reporting it to the police.
“No other transit agency in the world has a 24/7 sexual harassment victim hotline,” Phillip Washington, CEO of LA’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said in a statement.
Announcing the news of the LA hotline, Peace Over Violence shared a Facebook post (below) that said:
Because riding the bus to work is not an invitation.
Waiting for the bus at a bus shelter is not an invitation.
A crowded subway car is not an excuse.
Taking the subway to school is not an invitation.
Whatever you’re wearing to go from Point A to Point b is not an invitation nor is it an excuse.
The hotline will run for a trial period of a year and, if it’s a success, there is hope it could spark the launch of similar hotlines across the world.
Here in the UK, people who experience harassment on public transport are encouraged to text the British Transport Police’s non-emergency number, 61016, to report the incident. However, this number is also used by passengers who want to report overcrowded trains or ask a general question about transport, rather than being dedicated to harassment – and there is little comfort in sending a text to a generic number.
But the case for a harassment hotline in London is a strong one, with a 2012 YouGov survey commissioned by End Violence Against Women Coalition finding that 28% of women felt unsafe on public transport in the capital, compared with 15% of men.
And back in 2013, the British Transport Police found a massive 90% of unwanted sexual contact goes unreported, sparking their Project Guardian and Report It To Stop It campaigns, which aim to make London’s transport network safer for travellers.