Sexual harassment on the CTA: Widespread problem hits home

In a story posted today, the Reader asks: “Could woman-only el cars prevent sexual harassment on the CTA?

I think that’s a terrible idea.

And so does the CTA, as the article points out. The transit agency last year launched an anti-harassment campaign to educate people about what constitutes harassment, and how to report it. A CTA spokesperson said that between the campaign and the proliferation of onboard cameras, it hopes to reduce the incidence of harassment. Eight sexual assaults were reported on the CTA in 2015.

When I tweeted a link to the article, it got strong reactions on both sides of the issue.



And then there was my feeling on the issue:

And then my own 25-year-old daughter texted me:

“As a woman with mild post-harassment PTSD who is relieved not to have to ride the Red Line anymore, I think woman-only railcars on the cta is such a fabulous idea.”

She went on to tell her Dad (me) about various incidents that happened to her in high school and college while traveling the Red Line. She said men usually harass women on the train when other men aren’t around to witness the act. “A man waits to pull his penis out until the car empties.”

“If I had a daughter I would be mildly freaked out about her riding the Red Line because of what I know I went through.”

“Once I was riding the el to a friend’s house when a man touched my leg through the gap in-between the seat and the railcar wall. I asked hime to please stop touching me and he got up and left the train car. But when he was outside the window where I was sitting, he punched it as hard as he could where my face was. So yeah, that’s the kind of shit that makes my heart race when I am alone near a man on the el. It ain’t pleasant.”

And that kind of shit makes me really pissed off at men.

Please, stop this shit. It could be your wife, your mother – your daughter – who gets harassed.


If you like this post, please like my Facebook page, and follow me on Twitter and Instagram. And, never miss a post! Subscribe now to receive CTA Tattler via email. Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.


Leave a comment
  • Back in the 40s-60s, on buses like Greyhound, etc., airlines, the last 3 rows were reserved for smoking.

    On trains, like Amtrak that cover the USA, they had drinking & smoking only cars.

    They've brought back the drinking cars and in some, the smoking cars.

    I would be happy to see NO CELLPHONE cars, along with Female Only cars.

    Unwanted attention at the wrong time . . . annoying!

  • In reply to ApresSki:

    Female only cars would be illegal & unconstitutional.

  • In reply to ApresSki:

    In the 50's, they had seats at the back of the bus for the "coloreds." I don't think Rosa Parks would agree with you. Scooter is correct.

  • Here's a reality check: women put up with this kind of harassment All Their Lives in all sorts of places, perpetrated by everyone from little boys to elderly men and every age in between. To say, "Only eight sexual assaults were reported on the CTA in 2015." doesn't mean that only eight events took places. Women don't bother reporting the vast, vast majority of incidents of sexual harassment to anyone because we know no one will do anything about it. Perhaps those eight women who took the time and effort to report what happened to them suffered especially grievous attacks, or were especially fed up. I only rarely ride the CTA and I've been the victim of very disturbing sexual harassment. It never occurred to me to report it to anyone. I wouldn't even know to whom I should speak. I didn't want to take time out of my vacation to do so, nor did I want to relive the incident in retelling it. I can't imagine there is anything anyone could do after the fact--the man would be long gone and untraceable. I like the idea of a women-only car as an option, especially for women who have been victims of especially disturbing harassment from men, whether on the CTA or some other place. Give these women a break. If you declared that all women who had ever suffered harassment HAD to ride in women-only cars, then half of every train would have to be women-only cars. And at what age would the boys traveling with their mothers be blocked from entering them? Not very practical, especially if you are traveling with a male family member or friend, but I like the idea of women having an option. Maybe just have a car with a transit police officer on board, or a very obvious camera that is actually monitored and people ready to respond instantly to a bad situation.
    Men, if you ask the women and girls in your life if they've ever suffered sexual harassment, I guarantee they could spend hours and hours recounting the incidents. Days even. But they won't.

  • In reply to Anna Mus:

    Anna, I hope you don't think that I actually think there were only 8 incidents on the CTA. My headline here shows that I don't. The problem is widespread.

    I certainly don't have a solution. But I hope / wish it is not women-only rail cars.

  • In reply to Anna Mus:

    Anna, apparently your reading comprehension is terrible, I repeat: Female only cars would be illegal & unconstitutional!
    Both under federal law & the Illinois Constitution, specifically Article 1, Section 18, which bans discrimination by sex.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I hear you Scooter. So what is your solution?

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    OK, I know full well I'll be called a racist, but I've seen a lot of catcalling & similar incidents on the L, but so far no touching problems.
    Every single man & saw doing this was black. I ride both the Red Line on both the North & South Sides & the Green on the South Side & the West Side. I also only see peddlers & the preachers south of Roosevelt on both lines.
    I'm sure white, Hispanic & Asians also do it, but the overwhelming majority appear to be older black men.
    So I'd start with getting rid of the peddlers & preachers & that needs the cops!
    Once they see the CTA & police are serious about making the South Side rides as civilized [LOL] as the North Side, my guess is the molesting & catcalling will ease off.

  • fb_avatar

    Hi Kevin,

    I appreciate your response to my Reader piece, and I'm sorry to hear about your daughter's experience.

    However, you wrote: "A CTA spokesperson said that between the campaign and the proliferation of onboard cameras, it hopes to reduce the incidence of harassment, which already is low. Only eight sexual assaults were reported on the CTA in 2015."

    The spokesman never said there is a low incidence of sexual harassment or public indecency on the CTA, merely that they do not have numbers. It appear that many incidents of come-ons, catcalling, indecent exposure, etc. go unreported to the authorities. Judging from stories I've heard from women while researching the piece, and comments in response to the article, these are fairly widespread issues on the CTA.

    Meanwhile the fact that only eight sexual assaults were reported last year certainly does not mean there is a low incidence of these crimes on the CTA. It's likely that many cases of men groping or grinding on female passengers, and other types of sexual assaults, go reported.

  • In reply to John Greenfield:

    Hi John. Thanks for the correction. I have changed the text.

    And thank you for shining a light on this problem More men need to do so.

  • Being a former CTA rail rider, I for see the female only car (s) filled to capacity and women late for work and a few men sitting comfortable. Keep the cameras rolling and prosecute the offenders.

  • Perhaps women should carry pepper spray, and give the perps a good dose. It would certainly make them easier to pick out in a crowd. Yeah, it would suck to be a nearby passenger, but the stuff is basically harmless. After a while, the creeps might get the message.

  • "And that kind of shit makes me really pissed off at men."

    And that stereotyping makes me really pissed off at you.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Nate Whilk:

    Exactly. What percentage of men sexually harass women on the train? .1%? SO SCREW ALL MEN!? LOL

  • fb_avatar

    I spent a few years living in Japan. The 'women only" cars only ran certain times like morning rush, afternoon rush and then the trains after 9 pm. It was only certain lines as well. The position was first car and they had decals in the windows that designated them as the women car. Women could get in any car, mind you, but men couldn't go in that car. In theory anyway. Men would, of course, accidentally get on it occasionally and then beat a retreat when they figured it out. If it was less crowded than the other cars I would ride it, otherwise I just would choose any car.

    This one time I remember being on it and a very inebriated man got on the car. He sat down then proceeded to barf on the seat next to him and then passed out. We rode something like 7 stops before we got to the one where the conductor was waiting to check the car. He and another had to rouse the man off and detach the barf seat (neat!) and carry it out and we got sent on our way.

    The car by itself doesn't mean anything. It's like on the CTA where they have the reserved seats for expecting mothers, elderly and handicapped. Without some sort of monitoring/conductor they aren't going to be effective. So I'd just as soon use any money towards bringing back conductors.

  • fb_avatar

    This is moral posturing on your part. MEN JUST STOP, STOP BLAMING WOMEN is nice and all, but it won't do shit. The inbreds who harass women on the trains aren't reading this blog. They are anti-social deadbeats. Either we enforce our laws to the utmost(which won't happen, the ACLU would be all over that) or we allow women to avoid the idiots.

Leave a comment