Politicians and advocacy groups are pushing for harsher penalties for subway pervs.
On average every year, the NYPD receives 600 incidents of “riders being groped, flashed, grinded or similarly assaulted,” the Daily News reported.
Since smartphones came into use, women have been fighting back, exposing perpetrators to police and even the web. In 2005, a Queens woman posted a photo of a man publicly masturbating on the subway on Flickr and it made the front cover of a city paper.
But even if a suspect is caught rubbing or “grinding” against a transit rider, a loophole in the law isn’t much of a deterrent, say officials.
Local politicians and advocacy groups want to get rid of that loophole and upgrade unwanted touching from a misdemeanor to a felony.
“When the laws on the books aren’t enough to protect people, we have to make them tougher. ‘Grinding’ is a deeply personal and deeply offensive violation that no woman or straphanger should have to suffer. We need laws that match the seriousness of this crime,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
On September 18, de Blasio and Hollaback!, an organization working to end sexual harassment and assault in public spaces, sent a letter to New York State assembly and senate leaders asking them to pass a new law that treats subway grinding as a felony.
A few days later a state senate bill that makes “unwanted sexually‐motivated touching of someone who is physically helpless, unable to move or on public transit” a class B felony was introduced in Albany.
A recent court ruling was the catalyst for the legislation.
“A sex offender with 32 prior arrests was facing charges for rubbing himself to orgasm on three young women ages 24, 22 and 17. Incredibly, the judge in the case threw out felony charges on the grounds that no threat of violence was present during the assaults,” it said in the September 18 letter from de Blasio.
“It almost implies that [subway grinding] is consensual, said Emily May, Hollaback! co-founder and executive director, about the decision.
“The recent ruling was an interpretation of the law. It wasn’t a failure to recognize the seriousness of the crime,” said Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., chair of the Public Safety Committee. “We shouldn’t leave it up to the courts and should have a law that protects women right now.”
On the city level, Vallone helped change public lewdness from a B misdemeanor with a punishment of up to three months in jail to an A misdemeanor with up to one-year jail sentence. But only the state can upgrade it to a felony.
Whether or not the law is changed, May gives female straphangers this advice: “There’s no wrong way to respond to [sexual harassment] because it’s not your fault that it’s happening to you.”