WASHINGTON — Metro Transit Police are investigating after a young woman said she was sexually harassed at a D.C. train stop while others looked on.
Helen Molteni, 21, of Arlington, posted a video on TikTok of the incident she said she experienced around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, at Foggy Bottom Metro station.
Molteni claims a man came up to her on the platform who appeared to be drinking a bottle of alcohol.
She said, at first, she tried not to pay the man any attention, but he soon started yelling at her.
“The situation kept escalating,” Molteni said. “He kept yelling at me, he moved closer, he made threats to rape me and told me to come sit on his lap.”
Molteni said she called Metro’s non-emergency line to inform the agency about the man’s actions.
“There were about 20 people within earshot, white-collar professionals, most of them were men,” she said. “And, everyone was kind of looking at the ground staring into their phones, but everybody could hear very clearly what was happening.”
Molteni said it took more than 10 minutes for her train to arrive. The college student, who is back in town working for the summer, said only one person came to her assistance.
“One Black woman, very young professional, came up to me,” she said. “She didn't even say anything. She just reached her arms out. And I started crying into her arms and she just told me, ‘it's okay to cry. It's okay to cry. Don't be embarrassed. I'm so sorry’.”
Shortly after, Molteni said she decided to post a video on TikTok about her experience because she saw it as her “moral obligation” to do something to stop similar incidents from happening in the future.
The video, which has been viewed roughly 30,000 times, has received more than 300 comments. Molteni said many of the responses have been from women eager to show her their support.
“I've read so many stories from other women that have faced similar encounters,” she said. “I've even read a couple of stories from women who have reached out and said that they think the exact same man was harassing them.”
In a statement, Metro said it tracks all reports of sexual harassment, even those that do not rise to the level of a crime. It claims that the data helps it identify trends to deploy officers as necessary.
“The behavior the victim described is disgusting and unacceptable on Metro and everywhere else,” the statement reads. “The victim did the right thing and reported the incident immediately to MTPD, which is investigating.”
In March 2018, Metro conducted a joint survey with the groups Collective Action for Safe Spaces and Stop Street Harassment to examine the issue of harassment on public transit.
The survey, which questioned 1,000 people, found women are nearly twice as likely as men to experience harassment on public transportation.
Molteni said she has been in contact with Metro Transit officers ever since the incident occurred. In the meantime, she asks all Metro riders to consider assisting people they see in distress inside train stations or at bus stops.
“It doesn't need to be a grand gesture, but there are small things you can do that will make a world of difference for someone who's using public transportation,” she said.