By Rob Gannon, King County Metro General Manager

Today Metro launched an important public awareness campaign to encourage reporting of unwanted sexual harassment and misconduct on board our services.

We’re working with the King County Sheriff’s Office, Metro Transit Police, King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, and local law enforcement to increase awareness, encourage reporting, support victims, and reduce misconduct through our “Report it to Stop it” effort as part of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

All of us have a critical role to play in keeping one another safe while riding Metro services.

Sexual misconduct occurs daily on public transportation across the world. Bus riders, regardless of gender, race, or age, can be targeted in incidents of indecent exposure, lewd behavior, unwanted touching, harassment, or unwanted comments. But these incidents go largely unreported, allowing offenders to continue victimizing people.

Dozens of victims or bystanders contact Metro police, transit operators and customer service each year with reports of sexual harassment or misconduct. And that’s not the whole story—by some estimates 50 to 90 percent of incidents are underreported or unreported.

We want to put an end to it. Beginning with today’s launch of the “Report it to Stop it” campaign, we call on you and our riders on Metro buses, vanpools, and Access to report sexual misconduct and help us catch offenders by:

  • Telling their driver at the time of the incident,
  • Calling the Metro Transit Police, 206-296-3311, or
  • Calling 911

We’re prepared to take seriously reports of sexual harassment and misconduct. We have thought through every step of our process from the time an employee becomes aware of an instance of sexual misconduct, and are making sure people responsible at each of those steps are aware of what they should do.

It’s important for everyone to know that if a person experiences sexual misconduct, it’s not their fault. It is of the utmost importance that anyone who has the courage to report something to a Metro employee is believed and supported. Anyone who has been a victim, or thinks someone else might be, can find support 24 hours a day at the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, 888-998-6423.

I ask you to join me in appreciating the work of the many Metro employees who joined forces to prepare us for this effort:

  • Our Metro Transit Police have made this a priority since 2013, dedicating resources and collaborating with other agencies to make sexual misconduct investigation a top priority.
    Representatives from every section at Metro teamed up to design a campaign that will make a difference. Major Dave Jutilla and his Metro Transit Police team worked in partnership with others across our agency, bringing together staff from every section and the general manager’s office to learn about this important issue and coalesce around our campaign to raise awareness and encourage reporting.
  • By partnering with the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, we infused our training and communications with the professional expertise of those who work with victims and their families.
  • Five of our own employees courageously volunteered to participate in the photo shoot for the campaign advertising.
    Our campaign features posters and brochures on board our buses and Access vans, promotion through news and social media, information on our website, and presentations to community organizations. This is not a one-time effort. It is part of our ongoing work to make safety a priority—a continuation of our “Community on a Bus” theme that began last fall with our “All are Welcome” campaign.

If we are successful, our joint multi-year effort with the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center and the King County Sheriff’s Office/Metro Transit Police is expected to result in an increase in the number of reports. In turn, the Metro Transit Police expect to better coordinate investigations with local law enforcement and bus riders so they can hold offenders accountable through successful prosecutions to reduce the problem.
Thank you for helping us remain vigilant in reporting any misconduct on our services, making transit safer for everyone.
Take care of each other and be safe.