Off Limits Sexual Harassment Hotline

We need public transportation in Los Angeles and we need it to be reliable and safe. The partnership between Peace Over Violence and LA Metro, addressing sexual harassment with the It's Off Limits campaign, is a way to help make that happen. If something happens to you or if you witness it, and if people are triggered by incidents that take place on a bus or train, POV Counselor Advocates are available to offer confidential support, and information, 24/7. We are here to listen, counsel, refer, and help you report if you so choose. If you experience sexual harassment, it's not your fault.


Off Limits Hotline FAQ

How did POV get involved with LA Metro? 

  • In 2015, LA Metro invited Peace Over Violence to partner and consult with their Communications and Security departments in their efforts to reduce sexual harassment/assault on public transit. This response was in part due to a survey reporting that 1 in 5 metro riders face unwanted sexual behavior on Metro. They recognized POV’s decades of leadership in the field and trusted expertise in the areas of sexual and domestic violence and emergency response. POV allowed Metro to use the name of their existing sexual harassment curriculum Off Limits and informed the message and design development of the initial campaign. Following the initial success of this collaboration and the high reports of sexual harassment reported in Metro’s How Women Travel survey, we were asked to create a customized sexual harassment hotline for Metro riders to give an even stronger message that Metro is committed to the safety of their ridership. This was done through a sole source/no-bid contract initiated internally by LA Metro. The Off Limits 24/7 sexual harassment hotline officially launched in 2017 and continues to run today. 

  • LA Metro was one of the first metropolitan transit agencies in the nation to take on sexual harassment with the creation of a public outreach campaign. POV was proud to be at the table for the creation of the Off Limits campaign. In 2017, LA Metro was awarded the Gold Award for Security from the American Public Transportation Association for the Off Limits campaign and hotline.

How does the Off Limits hotline work?

  • The Off Limits hotline is an 800 number free-to-caller service that connects the caller directly to an advocate that provides 24/7 crisis intervention and emergency response customized for Metro. This includes real time live response, which includes assessment of the call/situation, immediate counseling, safety planning, advocacy and referrals - in both English and Spanish. Callers are offered a report being filed on their behalf, follow up services including short and long term case management, further counseling and clinical services. Many callers have taken advantage of these ongoing supportive services provided by POV. 

  • With the Off Limits hotline there is an immediacy and a direct link to Metro Security for the reporting and tracking of where and when assaults are occurring on Metro transit. Metro Security uses this information to track and deploy security to help make the trains and buses safer for all riders. This does not exist on the usual 24 hour hotline.

What is the difference between the Off Limits Hotline and a general sexual assault hotline? 

  • If you call a general sexual assault hotline directly, like Peace Over Violence’s LA Rape and Battering Hotline, you connect with a trained hotline volunteer and opportunities for an array of services. The difference between POV’s hotline and the Off Limits hotline is there is an immediacy and a direct link to Metro Security for the reporting and tracking where and when assaults are occurring on Metro transit. Metro Security uses this information to track and deploy security to help make the trains, buses and transit platforms safer for all riders. 

  • Peace Over Violence has a dedicated advocate to assist with reporting, advocate for the caller, and offer follow up services and needs assessment. POV reports the sexual harassment calls to Metro as per their instruction. Metro was most interested in sexual harassment calls to track since that is the main purpose of the hotline. However, we are obligated as outlined by the scope of work in the contract to process and service all calls received on the Off Limits hotline. Other calls received include: other types of assault, robbery, verbal harassment including racist comments, wheelchair accessibility issues, lost items, witnesses reporting disturbing incidents, mentally ill and chronic callers. All of these calls are logged and categorized. Our staff are trained to respond, assess, counsel and refer all types of calls received. Traditionally hotlines receive a vast array of calls from people in need that are not related to the purpose of a particular hotline. 

Why is the Off Limits hotline important?

  • Sexual harassment continues to be one of the most under reported and difficult traumas to disclose and crimes to report. A 2018 study showed that 81% of women and 43% of men experienced some form of sexual harassment over their lifetime. Providing reliable and trusted resources and spreading awareness around issues of sexual violence to survivors and the public is of the utmost importance to POV and it is intrinsic to our mission. 

  • The Off Limits hotline has helped over 200 victims of sexual harassment and/or assault on LA METRO along with fielding thousands of calls from distressed riders.

How is the Off Limits hotline funded? 

  • In 2015, Metro gave POV $75,000 to consult and co-create the initial Off Limits outreach campaign. 

  • Between August-December 2016, the customized 24/7 Off Limits sexual harassment hotline soft launched to the community. In January 2017, the hotline officially launched at a press conference including Metro executive staff, Board of Supervisors, and community members. 

  • The contracting process consisted of POV following all of Jennifer Loew, the Manager of Transit Security Special Projects, directions and guidance. All rules and protocols were followed, including transitioning to a three year sole source contract in 2019.

  • Monies given by year:

    • $160,000 for year 2017

    • $160,000 for year 2018

    • $160,000 for year 2019

    • $164,800 for year 2020

    • $169,743 for year 2021

2019

2019


What do you say about the Fox News report that claims each hotline call is costing taxpayers over $8,000?

  • Can one put a price tag on serving a survivor of violence? Serving a survivor is more than picking up the phone when they call - there is a system in place for immediate response, follow up services, tracking and referrals. This calculation of $8,000 per call is a miscalculation - this is not a fee per call service. It does not express the severity of sexual harassment/assault or the seriousness of the issue - or the systems in place to answer these calls. 

  • We do not inflate the call numbers and we count accurately all the calls that are received on the Off Limits hotline. According to our contract, all calls coming into the hotline are legitimate. Hangups are common on hotlines, and we do not classify them as live calls from survivors. We repeatedly called attention to the low number of calls received and continued to encourage Metro to advertise this service. 

  • There are no quotas associated with our hotlines. We are there to serve the people that call 24/7. This is not a fee per survivor service. Metro is paying for the program, which is a systemized 24/7 emergency response which includes follow up services, not per survivor.

  • While hotline services are provided free to callers, all hotlines have budgeting expenses that are paid through fundraising and various grants. POV runs the longest running sexual assault and domestic violence hotline in the country. We are experienced in responding and budgeting for these services. Our other hotlines are supported by government grants and other donations.

What about the other whistleblower claims?

  • The whistleblower, Jennifer Loew, misrepresented the program and in some cases gave completely false information. As the Manager of Transit Security Special Projects, Loew was supportive of all of our efforts and championed the program and POV’s commitment and skillset from the beginning - until she had a conflict with her employer and is now involved in a lawsuit against Metro. Unfortunately she involved POV in her personal employment matter. There are no whistles to blow regarding the Off Limits project or the funding process, including the sole source/no-bid process that was initiated by Loew herself. All of POV’s activities and involvement have been transparent and above board over the last five years. 

  • It is a shame that Fox News used these allegations to create this false narrative. The story misrepresented the facts and is dependent on a single source, a Metro employee, who is in the midst of litigation against her employer. 

  • Contrary to representation, POV continuously encouraged and requested Metro and Loew to increase the visibility and dissemination of the hotline and number. It is not our job to promote and market the hotline. Marketing and community relations is the responsibility of LA Metro. It is our job to answer and respond to the needs of the callers and to track and report information accurately. 

Did Supervisor Sheila Kuehl have anything to do with the granting of the Metro contract to Peace Over Violence? 

  • None. Peace Over Violence is a recognized leader in the sexual and domestic violence field and has served the Los Angeles community for the last fifty years. Contracts and funding received are due to the stellar reputation and quality of services POV provides. POV was selected and invited by Metro and followed all protocols provided by METRO in the contracting process for this project. Please contact Chief Bob Green at Metro for information on their internal processes on awarding contracts. 

  • Patti Giggans is a recognized and respected leader in the field of violence intervention and prevention and considered an expert in the areas of sexual and domestic violence. She has been at the helm of Peace Over Violence since 1985. 

  • Patti Giggans does in fact have a personal friendship with Sheila Kuehl, but there has never been any impropriety regarding grant or contract funding. POV categorically refutes these accusations as false and self-serving fabrications on the part of the whistleblower.

Now what? 

  • POV rejects the attempt to defame the organization, its programming and values, its integrity and the integrity of its Executive Director/CEO. 

  • We are continuing the Off Limits hotline and program and will work closely with Metro leadership and continue to serve every Metro rider that reaches out to us. 

  • This hotline is a crucial and essential emergency resource that is a necessity to the community and it is supported wholeheartedly by Metro leadership.  

  • We stand strong in our support of survivors. We do not believe you can put a price tag on serving someone who has been harassed or assaulted. We believe there is no excuse and never an invitation to harass, abuse, assault or rape - and that no one deserves to go through the trauma of these kinds of violence alone. Peace Over violence would like every survivor out there to know that we will never abandon them. 


Contact:

For further information from Peace Over Violence, please contact Darcy Pollan, Director of Strategic Partnerships, at darcy@peaceoverviolence.org

For further information from LA Metro, please contact Ron Dickerson, Deputy Executive Officer of Systems Security and Law Enforcement at dickersonr@metro.net