Very recently, a colleague of mine arrived at the office flustered after taking public transport to work in the morning.
She had used the train a couple of times over the last few days and had been flashed on two separate occasions by men of varying ages.
She was traumatised and we kept talking about the #MeToo movement. It's a global call to action against sexual harrassment, abuse and violence whose effects are felt not only in South Africa, but also around the world. We kept talking about what we could do to fight it and to help others experiencing it, in that moment.
Highlighted in this video from the BBC, Margaret Wroblewski, a photojournalist from the U.S., talks about how "a man exposed himself to [her] on the subway, and then sat down next to two young girls. After the incident, she decided to use her camera and social media to address the issue and this Instagram account was born - I Was On The Metro When.
"I always fall asleep on the metro in a middle seat. That is the best thing in the world to fall asleep in a moving vehicle. One morning, I felt something in my lap. I didn't think I had anything in my lap so I forced myself to wake up. I looked down and there was a hand touching my crotch. I stood up, pushed the old man out of his seat and yelled at him to get off of me. No one asked if I was ok. Nobody cared. Nobody even looked up..."Unfortunately, I did not take his picture or report him to Metro. Now, I will only sit if I can find an aisle seat next to a woman. But the most frustrating thing about these incidents is people's reactions when I tell them this story. They say, "Well, you shouldn't have fallen asleep!" Unacceptable. The real question is, "Why can't a man keep his hands to himself?" If you fall asleep or wear a certain thing that doesn't give anyone the right touch you. A woman should be able to do and wear whatever she wants and not feel afraid." -Human Resources Professional
The bio from the account describes that what she does is post photos that include personal stories of women and men 'who have been harrassed in public spaces in DC and beyond'.
Her goal is to get people to talk about the issue more and something that's stood out as we share all our experiences is to also be aware of how we need to be taught and to teach bystanders how to intervene when someone is assaulted or harassed.
- Here are some other ways people around the world are trying to raise awareness - A 'penis seat' and other campaigns hlighlight the problem we experience with sexual harrassment when we use public transport
- And what to do if the same happens in the workplace - 3 people share their sexual harassment stories - but what does the law say? (TRIGGER WARNING)
- If someone has been affected, here's an article on how you can support them
There's much work to be done but it's great to see women driving campaigns to help us put an end to this scourge.
Have you had a similar experience when you've used public transport? Share your story with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.