BART and its community partners passed out cards last week that help people deal with sexual harassment. Credit: Bethanie Hines

A partnership between BART and several local nonprofits aims to help girls and gender expansive youth feel safe while riding public transit. And the campaign is spreading through an innovative but old-school method: information cards small enough to fit in a wallet, passed out by good samaritans.  

Last month, BART and community volunteers launched the second phase of the system-wide “Not One More Girl” campaign by giving out colorful cards that anyone riding BART can use to intervene when they see someone being sexual harassed. The cards also have information about how to report an incident to authorities.

The “safety intervention” cards describe what to do during tense and sometimes dangerous moments. They recommend bystanders text the BART police, call the train operator, or ask someone else if they can do that for them. 

One of the cards is designed for people who are experiencing harassment to pass to a bystander who can help them. In eye-catching font it asks, “You got me?” and lets the bystander know that the person who passed the card is being harassed. The card that allows a bystander to ask a potential victim if they need help reads, “I got you,” and then asks if they need someone to stand next to them. 

Not One More Girl cards are available for free at all BART kiosks. BART also plans to put up 300 posters inside train cars to spread awareness. 

Gaby Guzman, a program coordinator at the Unity Council, an East Oakland non-profit partnering with BART on the campaign, told The Oaklandside that some people have already used the cards to stop harassment. 

“They saw our campaign and told us it was useful,” Guzman said. “And that’s the whole point: to mitigate and intervene when there is violence.” Guzman runs the Council’s Latinx Youth Empowering and Achievement program, which centers on reducing gender-based violence. 

The Betti Ono Foundation, Alliance for Girls, Unity Council, and Black Girls Brilliance were BART’s original partners in developing the campaign, which started in 2019 through workshops and listening sessions with OUSD students. The campaign’s first phase also included posters at BART stations. But most importantly, BART convened working groups with young women who came up with police recommendations to stop sex harassment. Based on those recommendations, the BART Board of Directors changed the system’s laws to prohibit sexual harassment. Before, only sexual assault, lewd behavior, and human trafficking were prohibited.

In the last two years, BART and its partners have also added questions about sexual harassment to its Passenger Environment Survey. According to this survey, between 7 and 12% of all riders experience harassment. 

BART and its nonprofit partners also plan to put up new posters created by community artists inside stations and trains. 

Bay Area artist Safi Kolozsvari Regalado illustrated the cards and posters, the latter of which feature a comic-style panel of illustrations that shows what it can look like to safely stand around a person being harassed and protect them.

A poster illustrated by Safi Kolozsvari Regalado for the #NotOneMoreGirl campaign. Credit: courtesy of BART

“These are times when we want to strongly voice and highlight the intersectionality of safety and community and really look out for one another. Making change is not just watching by and being a bystander, it’s taking action,” the Betti Ono Foundation wrote last month in a Facebook post.

BART communications director Alicia Trost told the Oaklandside that the initiative is innovative because, in addition to the focus on young people, it is a way of responding to safety concerns that is outside the “traditional law enforcement structure.” 

“Most transit agencies partner with law enforcement for their campaign,” Trost said. “We believe our campaign serves as a model for other agencies to follow.”  

Maud Alcorn, the Arts and Culture project manager at the Betti Ono Foundation, told us the Not One More Girl campaign is trying to reshape what it means to respond to a serious need in the community “in real-time.” 

Several BART riders said they experienced sexual harassment and they looked forward to using the new cards. Credit:  Bethanie Hines

“People can underestimate the power that art has to convey messages,” Alcorn said.

The organizers are also gathering stories from women about their experiences on transit. 

Another step in the campaign, to be developed over the next few months, is to make sure there is visual language and materials that explain to men how to be good allies, deconstruct male privilege, and remove traditional gender roles of protection in a confrontational situation. The Unity Council’s Latino Men and Boys Program, which works with Oakland public schools to improve young men’s lives through mentoring and other activities, will lead these conversations. The group will also conduct classes at Oakland elementary and high schools to talk about sexual harassment. 

Guzman said the conversations will seek to disrupt patriarchy, sexism, and other harmful norms and beliefs. “We just have to think about what it means to be a community member first and foremost and [understand] what it means to stand up for a friend and be a witness and stand next to them physically so that they’re not there alone without putting themselves in harm’s way,” she said.

Alcorn told us that during two outreach sessions at BART stations in the last two weeks, they talked to nearly 300 people. 

“We’ve had a lot of great conversations about how people use these resources. They’ve shared them with their family and coworkers. It just feels good to continue this work,” Alcorn said.

Jose Fermoso covers road safety, transportation, and public health for The Oaklandside. His previous work covering tech and culture has appeared in publications including The Guardian, The New York Times, and One Zero. Jose was born and raised in Oakland and is the host and creator of the El Progreso podcast, a new show featuring in-depth narrative stories and interviews about and from the perspective of the Latinx community.