On Saturday evening, a police patrol in the Ohio State University campus area came across a woman being raped in a parking garage. They stopped the rape and arrested the perpetrator.
The woman was in the area because she had just been kicked off of a local COTA bus.
And I’m sure my readers will easily guess why she was kicked off.
The story is in the Columbus Dispatch: Woman: Parking-garage rape follows being kicked off COTA bus over broken shoe. Here’s the beginning of the story:
A young woman said she was kicked off a city bus because of a broken sandal before she was raped about 1:50 a.m. on Saturday near the Ohio State University campus, according to a Columbus police report.
The woman, 21, told police she was taking a southbound Central Ohio Transit Authority bus from Worthington when she noticed that her flip-flop was broken. What transpired between her and the bus driver is unclear, but she said the driver told her she was required to wear shoes on the bus.
“She said the bus driver told her she had to get off the bus,” detective James Ashenhurst of the police sexual-assault squad said Saturday night.
So one reason she got raped was because of the actions of COTA.
Farther down in the story we here from a COTA spokesman.
COTA’s policy requires riders to wear shoes, but “we would never ask operators to enforce a policy … if the customer was going to be placed in an unsafe situation,” said Marty Stutz, COTA spokesman.
This is false. COTA has no such policy.
I know, because I went round in circles with them last summer.
Now 10 years ago, COTA employees (and certainly management) clearly knew there was no such policy. I actually talked to their legal counsel (this was while I was pursuing my lawsuit against the library), Curtis Stitt, and he told me COTA had no policy against bare feet. He stated that they relied on state statutes and city ordinances to regulate behavior on buses. You can see the state statute here: O.R.C. §2917.41. (The city ordinance is similar.)
Curtis Stitt is now the President and CEO of COTA.
Last summer, while barefoot, I had a bus driver refuse to even open his door for me. (This, by the way, is against the rules for bus drivers in their manual.) Fortunately, the next bus allowed me on without any trouble. But I ended up writing to Curtis Stitt and he referred me to the current legal counsel, Marchelle Moore.
After “investigation”, she wrote me:
You were refused entry on the COTA bus in question because you were not wearing shoes. Shoes are required to ride COTA buses for health and safety reasons.
So I made an official public records request, which showed exactly what I had suspected: nothing had changed from 10 years ago. The Board had never passed any new regulations regarding behavior (with the exception of one regarding weapons—insert standard bear arms but not bare feet joke here). There is simply no requirement that shoes be worn on COTA buses.
She was ignorant. She was making it up. And now that ignorance helped lead to the rape of a woman.
That public records request got me a copy of the Bus Driver Manual, where we find this:
Customers shall never be passed up unless the coach is full to capacity, including standees (behind the white line to the rear of the coach) AND you receive authorization from Radio Central or supervision.
Bus drivers don’t have the authorization to make these sorts of decisions on their own. But they obviously don’t train them on that, or on what the actual regulations are.
Anyways, after my public records request was filled, I wrote back to Ms. Moore making sure that she knew that there was no such regulation. Her response was
Thank you for your email. COTA is in the process of evaluating your concerns.
I never heard back from her.
And here I’m afraid I let it drop. I don’t ride the bus all that often; in fact I tend it avoid it.
Now we have official spokespeople making the same false claim, and we have women getting raped as a result of getting kicked off the bus (keeping in mind that the ultimate responsibility for the rape lies with the rapist). This clearly shows a complete lack of proper training (which can be the cause of a winning lawsuit). If the women had known more, she could have refused to get off the bus. But who beyond somebody in the barefooting community would even think about that, or know that the bus driver’s claims were false?
Yesterday, after the story appeared, I emailed the reporter of the story, and got back nothing. It would seem to me that this would be news, that the rape would not have happened if the bus company knew their own rules. But I heard nothing back from him.
And so the myth is perpetuated, and the public still thinks it is against the rules to ride a bus barefoot, and the next time somebody loses a flip-flop they could be put in a similar hazardous situation, and the bus company is not held accountable.
It’s enough to make one weep.
The followup story is here: Not Kicked Off the Bus After All.