In a report airing today, investigators for the syndicated TV show Inside Edition found that women are routinely subjected to lewd and degrading acts by perverts who often get away with it.
For the report, which chronicles these frightening and degrading experiences to women on mass transportation, Inside Edition staffers conducted personal interviews with 331 female straphangers. Incredibly, 36% of the women surveyed said they had been either groped or flashed on the subway. The survey was conducted over a four-day period at Grand Central Station, Union Square, Penn Station, Columbus Circle and Herald Square subway stations.
Some of the comments included being "grabbed from behind" on a crowded train, being "touched on the chest area" and "rubbed against while train was swaying." Many others described how men had exposed themselves and masturbated in front of them.
The Inside Edition survey found that a vast majority of these incidents go unreported. Of the 119 women who said they were subjected to lewd behavior, only nine reported the incidents to authorities or alerted other passengers.
Adrienne Fragatos is an Inside Edition employee who witnessed a man fondling himself during her morning commute on a New York City subway last summer.
"He was looking at me and then I noticed him unzip his pants," says Fragatos, a Michigan native. "I felt so violated and I never thought I would say that because I didn't think it would be a big deal if that ever happened to me."
Instead, she says, she was so afraid he'd make a move towards her, she left the train at the next stop.
It turns out Fragatos is not the only Inside Edition employee to be victimized by one of these perverts. In the IE newsroom alone there were nearly a dozen women who had similar experiences while traveling on public transportation.
According to the report, women in other major cities like Boston, Washington, DC, Chicago and Los Angeles have also been subjected to similar acts.
"They don't want to get involved, and they feel ashamed and embarrassed by his [the offender's] actions," says Steve Kardian, a Mt. Pleasant, NY police officer, and self-defense instructor.
Kardian says he believes offenders feel confident in committing these crimes thanks to the crowded environment the subway provides, as well as their innate ability to react to situations quickly.
"He [the offender] feels secure in that what he does may not be interpreted as something improper, at least not initially," Kardian says.
Inside Edition took hidden cameras into the subway to demonstrate just how crowded the cars can become, oftentimes forcing people to be wedged between one another, creating an ideal opportunity for groping.
Kardian says, "A woman has to intentionally be aware that this could occur, and if it does occur, then she should take some sort of defensive action."
He points out that there are simple moves women can use to prevent themselves from becoming a victim, including using your elbows and handbags as weapons.
Fragatos says the incident scared her off the subway for good. Now, she takes a cab to work but she resents the imposition.
"That shouldn't be normal, for us to have to deal with getting groped on our way to work, just because we're women and we're on the subway. I think that's awful."