Grope gripes get heard

New York takes new measures to punish and stigmatize unwanted lewd public behavior.

Published October 10, 2006 10:13PM (EDT)

I don't often expect the Los Angeles Times to educate me about stuff happening here in New York. But on Monday the paper ran a story about measures being taken to curb the incidence of groping and flashing, specifically on Gotham's subway system. According to the Times, the NYPD has performed a series of undercover stings in recent months in an attempt to catch subway molesters, who are all too common. In a side note that is so wrong it's right, one of these stings was called "Operation Exposure."

Anyway, police have made 245 arrests this year so far for forcible touching, lewd behavior or sexual abuse -- an increase of 131 percent over the number of arrests made last year.

James Hall, commanding officer of the NYPD transit bureau, told the Times, "When you talk to women, you'd be amazed how many of them have had this happen to them ... This is almost part of their daily commute."

Hell, yes, Officer Hall. Thank you for noticing! And thank you for joining the ranks of Holla Back NYC ladies, who for months have been snapping cellphone photos of the grody guys who get way too intimate during commute time.

Reading about the police attention to the issue of lewd public advances made me consider how frequent the experience of being groped against your will is for New York women. Based on my experience and the experiences of my friends, it is really one of those constants. But then again, most of the people I know in the city ride subways every day, sometimes spending the better part of an hour crushed against strangers. I'm curious about the experiences of Broadsheet readers in the rest of the country -- in cities with public transportation and without it. Is it as bad out there for you as it is for us? Or is this one of the special perks of living in a city that may never sleep but that has been known to openly masturbate on an express train?

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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