BART and Muni records of catcalling, groping, rape and other types of sexual harassment on stations and vehicles indicate that this public nuisance is rare.

Only 12 incidents have been recorded in the past two years. BART’s numbers are even more impressive, with no incidents whatsoever in the Mission since 2012, and only 20 incidents in all of San Francisco.

Talk to women on the streets, however, and it quickly becomes clear how misleading the official numbers are. In only 19 interviews, Mission Local turned up six victims of sexual harassment—half the official number reported in two years. Extrapolate out and it is likely that among the 700,000 boardings a day on Muni and 117,000 on BART, sexual harassment incidents number in the thousands.

A Muni spokesperson said the SFMTA and SFPD work closely together to try to make transit as safe as possible. “Muni is an extension of San Francisco’s city streets,” she wrote. “The same care and attention one takes on the street should be taken on Muni as well.”

Except, on the street, women aren’t crushed up against men.

At first, women appeared to corroborate the transportation agencies’ statistics, saying they’ve been here for years and never had a problem with it. Fare-dodgers, yes. Crazy people, yes. Fights breaking out? All the time. But sexual harassment?

Jessica Magana and her three friends waiting for a bus at 24th Street shook their heads when asked about it. Magana has been in the Mission for eight years and has never experienced it, “ever.”

Noemi Torres, a student at John O’Connel high school, takes the 12 every day and has never been harassed. Nor has Jeaneth Guiterrez, who usually takes BART and sometimes the 14 Mission, nor Stella Doyle, who has been a public transit rider in the Mission for four years.

Then, women started talking—although none of them said they had made any official complaints. “About a year ago, someone grabbed my hair as I was getting off the [BART] train,” said Magnolia Velasco. At night, she sits in the front of the bus and at other times in the midsection, to try and avoid people who yell lewd things at her in the back of the bus.

Leticia Young, who doesn’t live in the Mission but has been taking the bus through the area, said she hears drunk people call out to her, telling her she’s “cute.” But she dismisses that as hardly worth mentioning. Nonetheless, she said, “you have to protect yourself.”

One local young woman says she wears her purse or bag slung across her back so that it covers her behind, to ward off potential gropers. Stephanie Juarez said she adopted the practice after a man came up behind her and grabbed her rear, only to smirk at her when she turned around.

“I couldn’t do anything about it,” Juarez said. She also said harassment is less likely to occur once she boards, so she feels safer on the bus or train than at the stop or station.

Alicia Pineda also said a man once sat down next to her only to grab her leg. She got up and moved away, but didn’t report him. “I’m not looking for trouble; I’d rather just stand up,” she said.

Seana Collins, waiting for the 48 on 24th Street, said she’s gotten grabbed a few times and has “had people say shit,” but “nothing that made me want to run to the police or anything.” She said the 14 and late-night OWL buses are the most likely sites for harassment.

Sporting a head of dyed bright-yellow hair and eyebrows to match, Orchid Taylor says she gets called out to a lot—“Hey Yellow” is a popular greeting from strangers to her, followed by some unwanted flirtatious or lewd comments. She says she usually just smiles at them or shrugs it off, because she doesn’t want to come off as rude.

But Taylor also recalls a Caltrain ride after a Giants game during which, smothered in the crowded train, she was felt up three different times. “There were so many people yet nobody could do anything,” said Taylor, who also gave a short, incredulous laugh at the official Muni and BART statistics.

Muni encourages riders to voice their concerns by notifying the vehicle operator if it’s safe to do so. Anyone who witnesses a more extreme incident like a rape or violent assault should go directly to 911. Otherwise, customers can call the Muni Crime Hotline at (415) 671-3181, and try to provide the line, vehicle number, location, direction of travel and time of day.

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  1. Agree about the BART police; they are responsive. When a belligerent man used his wheelchair to trap me inside a BART elevator, refusing to let me leave, I pressed the station agent button in the elevator to request assistance. The BART police were on the scene within minutes.

  2. A man with mental health issues ran up on me at 16th street bart the other day yelling with his hands in fists. It scared me and the woman I was standing next to. Luckily he didn’t act on his delusion and walked away but continued to stare at me as I got on the train. I wasn’t sure what to do in the moment, 911 from my cell phone would take too long and l wanted to get on a train and book out of there ASAP. When I got to my station I told the man in the booth what happened. He called bart police but I can only assume the crazy man was already gone. However, I did get some great safety info from BART that everyone should be aware of just in case:

    There are bart phones all over bart stations. They are the white phones, they call directly to the station agent and are there for patrons. If you are harassed on the train there is a phone number posted in the train and if you look around you can spot the train car #.

    This may seem really obvious to some but is honestly something I was unaware of. Be safe everyone!!!

  3. Just in case you were wondering: it happens to men as well. I’ve had guys rub their ‘junk’ repeatedly on my shoulder while seated on Metro, particularly the N Judah metro line, and when I say to them ‘knock it off’ they just laugh and move to another person to molest. Sickening. It’s happened so many times I stopped counting.

  4. A co-worker was aggressively, almost bruisingly groped by a man on the 14 bus as she was getting off at 16th and Mission. As she got off she saw two cops nearby and told them, and surprisingly they actually went and grabbed the guy. I was quite impressed when I heard about it because it’s only the second instance I have directly heard of when SFPD in the Mission stepped right in and helpfully addressed a problem without trying to brush it off or accuse the person reporting the crime of wasting their time. It probably helped that my co-worker was attractive and they wanted to seem gallant. When an elderly Chinese friend was punched in the face by a teen hoodlum on the bus, they certainly didn’t care about it.

  5. My first week in SF several years ago, I was groped repeatedly by the same perpetrator on MUNI. I asked the driver if he could stop the bus for me to call the police while the perpetrator was locked on board but was told not possible. I called University Police only to be directed to SFPD who asked why I bothered to call them.

  6. Speak up. There are lots of us out there who will help. I’m not going to try to hit anyone but I will stand between you,

  7. It’s good to see this article. We keep being told how we have such great public transportation that we don’t need cars because we can just take the great Muni. Everyone who takes the bus in the Mission knows that not only is it late all the time, and full, stuff happens on Muni, especially to women. It is not a good safe transportation system.

  8. I find it interesting that the women in quoted in the story don’t realize the behavior they’ve described IS sexual harassment. Also, Ladies: you don’t owe “being nice” to ANYONE. Each person is solely responsible for his/her own behavior, be it good or bad.

  9. The reports must be waaay off. As a female who has been sexually harassed in the past *several* times on MUNI (but never on BART), it’s an incredibly frightening thing to happen, especially if you’re young (high school to college age). And yes, since the bus is seen as an extension of the streets, you figure, what’s the bus driver going to do? I’ve only seen drivers contend with fare evaders, etc, but not with passenger-passenger conflicts. If I report it, what will actually happen? Does it just add to some statistical tally and that’s it? What would be the point? You feel so violated and embarrassed. I just wanted to get away as quickly as possible.

    I’ve had men purposely press their pelvis up against me when they clearly did not have to do that. I’ve also had a gross pervert try to press his erect penis towards me while standing as well as sitting on separate occasions. I used my shoulder bag with books in it to block him from touching my body. It didn’t deter him from continuing to try though. I’ve seen that same man harass another woman. I’ve simply gotten off the bus early on a few occasions. I think these creeps target women who appear soft / non-threatening. It’s happened to me so frequently, it made me think something might be wrong with me. So of course I hadn’t reported it.

  10. I’ve been harassed many incidents on muni and it was not on the mission lines. It was on the N Judah. It was a packed bus a man wearing loose wind breakers and obviously no underwear had a hard on! I was sitting on a side chair next to the entrance and the guy starts hovering over me and sticking his dick in my face. I gave him nasty looks and turned my face away..He continued to stick his dick in my face and I was trapped because the bus was so packed.

    Another incident a man hit my ass from behind while I was entering the bus, I turned around and gave him a nasty look, he said sorry so I thought it was an accident. I sit down in a seat facing the back of the bus. I was wearing a skirt, I look up and the same guy was sitting in the back seat jacking off and looking up my skirt!

  11. Years ago as a teenager in SF a man standing behind me on a crowded 28 Muni bus coming back from a concert at Stern Grove kept rubbing up against me despite my moving away. He stopped after a friend of mine loudly called him a pervert. On a separate occasion, I was seriously harassed on a different bus by a guy who kept moving his leg up against mine while sitting next to me. I got up to leave the bus early to escape, and he got off as well. He took a few steps in my direction, but I had already starting booking it up the street. Thankfully he turned in the other direction and did not follow. Never reported either incident. I was young and didn’t speak up, but if this happened to me today, I would definitely report it.

  12. Bad behavior when you are traveling then you tries to rape or harass someone. Nowadays there were too many perverts out there trying to rape someone or trying to know them better so they can take advantage of them. This is really sick because only mentally ill people will do that.

  13. I’ve experienced some genuinely alarming anti-lesbian harassment, as well as sexual harassment, in BART stations in San Francisco, and at MUNI stops and on the bus. Once, I’m sorry to say, was from an off-duty MUNI driver still in his uniform.