Home MTA Absurdity NYC Transit won’t begin anti-groping PSAs for fear of encouraging more groping

NYC Transit won’t begin anti-groping PSAs for fear of encouraging more groping

by Benjamin Kabak

If anything ever deserved that MTA Absurdity tag I like to stick on posts, this is it.

According to news stories released on Tuesday, New York City Transit is holding back on a planned anti-groping ad campaign because officials fear it will encourage more deviant behavior than it would combat. That’s right; the MTA feels that by attempting to raise awareness of a serious issue they will serve only to encourage it.

Patrick Gallahue, transit reporter at the New York Post, has more about this odd story:

City transit officials have prepared a campaign to combat deviants who grope or molest women on the subway – but have been sitting on it because of fears the ads could actually encourage sickos.

The New York City Transit campaign was set into motion after a study last year by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer found that 10 percent of women surveyed reported having been sexually abused in the subway and 63 percent claimed to have been sexually harassed.

Stringer recommended a public awareness campaign, which NYC Transit quietly prepared. The agency made it as far as developing mock-ups, which never went to print. Sources said the agency held off on launching the campaign out of fear it could actually provoke deviant behavior.

As Jossip notes, wouldn’t the same logic preclude the MTA from releasing anti-terror ads? By urging people to combat suspicious subway behavior, we could be encouraging it. By trying to fight litter, might the MTA’s latest ad campaign simply remind people to litter even more frequently in the subways?

Subway assaults and groping is clearly a serious problem in the subways. The MTA shouldn’t belittle these concerns by refusing to run these ads and for such a flimsy reason. Just stick ’em up in the subways; groping incidents won’t increase.

Poster image from the MBTA’s anti-groping campaign in the Boston T.

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Marc Shepherd July 16, 2008 - 8:49 am

I think the MTA has a point. That doesn’t look like a very good add to me. From the woman’s face, she could be thinking, “Why didn’t that guy wear his deodorant today?”

StationStops July 16, 2008 - 10:32 am

Their concern isn’t stupid – its certainly legitimate. Marketing that this problem exists will definitely *create* some offenders – some sickos just need someone to suggest it.

However, I agree that its probably more important overall that the campaign goes up – it will send a message to offenders that people are paying attention.

ScottE July 16, 2008 - 11:17 am

I don’t know that a PR-campaign of this nature would create new offenders. Someone who wants to rub up against another straphanger inappropriately would certainly recognize the opportunity soon enough.

On the other hand, I can understand how some posters might inspire people to break the rules. One that comes to mind is the one with the guy clinging to the outside of a subway car doorway (feet on the door threshold, fingers in the rain-gutter). That might inspire some thrill-seekers to try something something they never thought of before. Just like these viral platform jumping videos that amNY brought to our attention earlier in the month likely inspired copycats.

Todd July 16, 2008 - 2:13 pm

This is true. I hadn’t molested anyone in a while, but after I read Ben’s post, I couldn’t help myself.

Ben, I blame you for people being molested in the subways.

MarkB July 16, 2008 - 6:13 pm

“Rub against me and I’ll expose you”? The wording would seem to invite guys who like to expose themselves, no? They might want to re-word that one.

km July 17, 2008 - 8:13 pm

I overheard (wrong word, they were very loud) 5 MTA workers on the subway joking about a 15-year-old being raped.

I’m pretty sure the organization just doesn’t consider it a problem.

Michael Gruen July 17, 2008 - 11:40 pm

The concern is legitimate. The wording, as MarkB pointed out, is absurd.

Interestingly, epidemiologists do the same thing with stabilizing infectious diseases: by limiting the strength of treatments, they can actually minimize infection at much MUCH less cost than eradicating them entirely (which is in many cases, cost prohibitive).

I say put ’em up. Reports will definitely go up regardless of actual gropes based on increased expectancy to report such a thing; but, that statistic will likely have the opposite effect that the policy makers want to see. The want to see the number go down, and keeping quiet is probably the best way for them to keep their jobs.

Alon Levy July 18, 2008 - 6:13 am

I don’t understand what you’re saying about minimizing infection. I thought epidemiologists wanted to increase the strength of treatment, not limit it.

Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog » Blog Archive » NYC Transit set to debut anti-harrassment posters August 7, 2008 - 12:15 pm

[…] mid-July, New York City Transit came under fire when word got out about the inactivity surrounding to a few planned anti-groping PSAs. According to reports at the time, the agency had been hesitant to launch an awareness campaign […]

Spanning the Web | Boston Daily January 5, 2009 - 4:44 pm

[…] ad campaign like the one on the MBTA because it may actually encourage gropers to get handsy. [Second Ave. Sagas via Universal […]


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