More New York City women are stepping forward to report what has been a longstanding problem on the subway: sexual harassment.
There have been 458 reported sex crimes, not including rape, in the subway through Monday, compared with 299 through the same period last year, NYPD Transit Chief Joseph Fox said in testimony before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board. That's a 53% increase, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
Fox attributed the jump to an increase in victims reporting the crimes rather than an actual uptick in offenses.
“Crimes that would previously go unreported because victims are embarrassed, intimidated or lacked the confidence that the case would be taken seriously are now being documented and fully investigated, “ he said. “Our teams are catching more sex offenders in the act and more women are coming forward knowing that we are committed to aggressively pursuing each criminal complaint.”
In 2014, the MTA set up a website where victims can report incidents.
If current rates continue, the subway system is on track to finish 2016 with about 900 violations, a 22% increase from last year. Fox said the annual numbers had hovered around 600 offenses. In 2014, there 621 and in 2013, there were 647.
Of course, even a casual familiarity with the experiences of women on mass transit would suggest that the number of reported incidents severely undercounts what is actually happening on New York City subways. Last year, a survey of 600 women living in two Paris suburbs found that 100% of them reported being sexually harassed while riding the subway, Jezebel reported.
The Guardian's Jessica Valenti recently wrote about her life riding the subway as a woman in New York. As she recounted,
The two worst times for dicks on the New York subway: when the train car is empty or when it’s crowded. As a teenager, if I found myself in an empty car, I would immediately leave – even if it meant changing cars as the train moved, which terrified me. Because, if I didn’t, I just knew the guy sitting across from me would inevitably lift his newspaper to reveal a semihard cock, and even if he wasn’t planning on it, I sure wasn’t going to sit there and worry about it for the whole ride.
On crowded train cars I didn’t see dicks – I felt them. Pressing into my hip, men pretending that the rocking up against me was just because of the jostling of the train.
Writer Emily Gould probably has the best advice for men when it comes to interacting with women you don't know on the subway: "DON’T TOUCH WOMEN AND DON’T TALK TO THEM."
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.