A new campaign has been launched by the transit authority to reduce instances of sex crimes on D.C. subways.
Washington D.C. sex crimes attorneys don't deny that instances of sexual harassment and abuse sometimes occur on the Metro.
However, statistics may be overinflated, and these cases are difficult to prove. Just brushing up against someone - easy enough to happen innocently on a packed train - can result in allegations of a sex crime. But there are a lot of elements that need to be in place in order for prosecutors to secure a conviction. Having an experienced defense attorney on your side to analyze all the unique circumstance of your case is your best hope of avoiding a lengthy prison sentence, as well as the stigma that follows someone who has been accused of a sex crime.
The campaign, on which the Metro partnered with the advocacy group Collective Action for Safe Spaces, will be formally launched April 2. It informs riders "It's not Ok," meaning verbal sexual harassment or groping. An e-mail and website have even been established in order for alleged victims to report allegations. And despite the fact that the campaign isn't even formally underway yet, there are already four complaints that have been logged and that are under investigation by Transit police, according to MyFoxDC.Two of those complaints are for verbal sexual harassment, one is for simple assault and the fourth is for indecent exposure.
A similar public awareness campaign was launched in Boston in 2008. Since then, the Boston transit authority reported an alarming 32 percent increase in the number of complaints and a 40 percent increase in the number of arrests for battery and indecent assault.
Organizers of the campaign say that's proof that the campaign works. However, what's not being considered is whether some of these cases go too far. Last year, the Metro reported 84 cases of harassment or sexual assault. What they don't tally at this point is verbal harassment, though they are now going to start.
The danger here is that you could face prosecution for complimenting someone, if that compliment makes someone uncomfortable. As one advocate of the program put it, it is "unacceptable to make comments that are unacceptable to other people with regard to sexual comments."
But who is to say what exactly crosses the line? A compliment is a suggestive thing. What could be considered welcome to one person might not be to another. Does that make the action criminal?
Certainly, unwanted sexual touching is considered a crime (usually, a misdemeanor sexual abuse under D.C. Criminal Code 22-3006), but what if the touching was unintentional or misinterpreted? If there are no other witnesses, it becomes your word against someone else's. That's where having a skilled defense attorney is going to become crucial.
Penalties for misdemeanor sexual abuse - in which the state must prove the person engaged in sexual contact with a person when they knew or should have known they did not have permission to do so - could result in a maximum fine of $1,000 and 180 days in jail.