It started with a Snapchat post.

George Washington University graduate student and photographer Margaret Wroblewski was on her regular late-night commute home from class, aboard a Red Line Metro, when she noticed a man looking at her. After several stops, the man moved to a seat closer to her and began to masturbate over his pants.

In shock, Wroblewski posted about the experience on her Snapchat story and was surprised when at least 10 of her friends replied to it with their own stories of sexual harassment.

“In that moment, it really struck me that I needed to do something,” about sexual harassment, says Wroblewski. She told WUSA9 that she decided to use “my camera, my voice, to be able to tell these stories.”

The result was I Was On the Metro When, an emotional photo series posted to Wroblewski’s website and an Instagram account, showcasing the stories of Metro passengers who have experienced sexual harassment or assault.

"It's not okay that we feel unsafe riding the metro, especially late at night," Wroblewski says. And starting this project has ignited a desire within the student to do more about the issue of sexual violence on public transportation.

“Every time I photograph a new individual, I get more heated and more, like, this fire in my belly is lit to do something more,” Wroblewski says.

The stories range from being followed to being groped to being recorded. Wroblewski’s photos often feature the face of the person telling the story, standing in front of a Metro stop, or sitting on a train.


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Some photos even tell stories of bystanders stepping in. Wroblewski told WUSA9 about one subject, Olivia, who noticed a woman being groped on the Metro and decided to do something.

“She said to this stranger that she didn’t know, in a loud voice, ‘oh my gosh, I haven’t seen you in forever, come sit right next to me!’” Wroblewski says. This gave the woman being harassed the chance to move away from the man harassing her.

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Still, Wroblewski hopes WMATA will act to prevent sexual harassment on the metro.

“One of the biggest things I’d like metro to do is get more training for those who works on the metro,” she says.

In January, Metro riders from Montgomery County met to demand action from WMATA. They also brainstormed ways that metro riders can feel more safe, from more lighting to allowing riders to walk to a different car if they feel unsafe.

Last year, WMATA did release their own anti-sexual harassment campaign after a survey found that one in five Metro riders say they’ve been harassed. The campaign encourages riders to speak up if they see harassment. On their website, they have a comprehensive reporting form.

Wroblewski, too, hopes her campaign will encourage Metro riders to speak up. “If you see something happening to a woman or man, ask if they’re okay…be there for each other no matter who they are,” she says.

In the age of the #MeToo movement, which has encouraged survivors of sexual violence to speak up, Wroblewski acknowledges that her campaign fits into that narrative and even draws inspiration from it.

On telling these stories, she says, “I really just want to continue that conversation of the #MeToo movement because it’s not going away.”


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Like the #MeToo movement which allowed victims of violence across the globe to connect through a shared traumatic experience, Wroblewski says her project has also led to people from across the U.S. to email her sharing their own experiences. She says she has been contacted by people from Seattle, San Diego and more cities since launching the project.

As for the project itself, the GW student has photographed 20 people and is still interviewing more people. She even made a short documentary based off of the project.

I was on the metro when... from Margaret Wroblewski on Vimeo.

Next, Wroblewski hopes to secure funding to tell these stories worldwide, starting with a summer road trip around the U.S. to photograph more subjects.

RELATED: #MeToo shines light on sexual assault in DC area

“It’s a very universal problem. It not only happens on the Metro in Washington, D.C. It happens in New York, it happens in Philly, it happens in California, it happens in Europe, it happens in Asia,” she says.

In telling these stories, Wroblewski hopes to fulfill the mission she has on her website: "to help stop this from occurring. No woman or man should feel unsafe when going to their next destination...The more voices that come together, the bigger impact we can have on the public transportation systems and society."

But, for those she photographs and for those who have yet to come forward with their own stories, Wroblewski has a message for them, too, one that echoes the sentiments of activists for the #MeToo movement:

“I want women and men to know if this sort of situation happens to them that they’re not alone.”

Metro riders can submit their own stories here.