Thanks to the efforts of organizations like Holla Back NYC and RightRides, several subway cars in New York City have anti-harassment ads that include text encouraging people to report harassers.
NBC New York is reporting that a woman who took a photo of a man who started masturbating in front of her on a northbound number 3 train (it was around 4 in the afternoon, no less) and reported it to a local precinct was told by the police officer that it wasn’t a police matter and to call 311. All one has to do is peruse a few stories on Holla Back NYC‘s website to realize that men masturbating on subways and at subway stations is a huge problem so this officer’s response to this woman’s efforts to report one of them one is disconcerting.
“The NYPD said internal affairs is looking into the matter.
‘Public lewdness’ is a misdemeanor that results in hundreds of arrests each year — a fact the cop apparently didn’t know.
‘It was a police matter and IAB is investigating why anyone would have been told otherwise,’ said police spokesman Paul Browne.
The incident comes as the police department has tried increase public awareness — and conviction — of sexual harassment on the subway.”
NBC posted the photo the woman took (see photo above, right) and said anyone with tips can call Crimestoppers at 800-577-TIPS.
If one police officer is unaware of the correct protocal for handling harassers like masturbators, there are likely others. Police officers MUST get educated about the pervasiveness and types of public harassment and assault and the impact they have on women’s every day lives. It takes a lot of time and energy and bravery to undertake reporting a harasser and when someone like this women makes that effort, she should be given proper help and support.
(And kudos to Holla Back NYC’s Emily May for a great quote in the Metro‘s article about this incident: “It’s an ongoing problem of the police showing insensitivity to harassment, lewdness and violence against women on subways…It discourages women from reporting.”)