Sexual victimization of college students in public transport environments: a whole journey approach

Abstract

Sexual victimization of female students during the commute to college is a common and sometimes serious problem. This small-scale study that gathers victim survey data from a sample of 140 female college students in New York City provides insight into their experiences of sexual victimization during the commute to college. It is informed by a “whole journey” approach that includes walking to and from the bus/subway stops as well as waiting for and riding on the bus or subway. The study findings highlight extensive patterns of victimization during all stages of female students’ subway commute to and from college. It is important for colleges and universities in the cities to learn about and deal with off-campus sexual victimization and work with other stakeholders to enhance the safety of commuting students by developing effective and appropriate measures to reduce the opportunities for sexual victimization.

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    These concerns are reflected in social media accounts such as Twitter and YouTube. In NYC, between 2011 and 2014, 153 people reported sexual harassment incidents within the subway system through Hollaback, an anti-street harassment organization. During the same period, nearly 30 such incidents were reported in the New York City’s three major daily newspapers, New York Post, The Daily News and The New York Times. A New York Post story reports a more than 50% spike in subway sex crimes recorded by the NYPD (June 22, 2016). There were 458 complaints of lewdness reported between 1 January and 19 June 2016, up from 299 for the same time frame for 2015. In fact, all around the world, attention has recently been paid to high levels of violence against women and girls (VAWG) in public transport and adjacent public spaces. Providing a safer environment, recognizing the travellers’ concerns and vulnerabilities, is also an important agenda for public safety and security (World Bank 2016).

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Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the CUNY Diversity Projects Development Fund (2016), sponsored by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Management. Thanks are due to the faculty members who willingly gave class time to distribute the survey. Our sincere thanks go to the students for their responses to the survey and for their invaluable answers to the open-ended questions.

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Correspondence to Mangai Natarajan.

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Natarajan, M., Schmuhl, M., Sudula, S. et al. Sexual victimization of college students in public transport environments: a whole journey approach. Crime Prev Community Saf 19, 168–182 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41300-017-0025-4

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Keywords

  • Harassment
  • Public transport
  • Situational prevention
  • Routine precautions