Metro cars parked at the Vienna Metro station in February. (Pete Marovich for The Washington Post)

As advocates working to stop sexual harassment and assault on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s public transit system, we were horrified to learn last week that a woman was sexually assaulted at knifepoint on the Red Line last month. But, sadly, we’re not surprised.

Every day, our organizations, Collective Action for Safe Spaces and Stop Street Harassment, hear about incidents of sexual harassment and assault taking place in public spaces like Metro cars, bus stops, bars, streets and parks. The behavior ranges from unwanted comments, leering and sexual noises to public masturbation, groping and assault.

The prevalence of this problem on public transit was confirmed by a representative survey commissioned by Metro and released on the same day as the April 12 assault. It is the most comprehensive representative study on sexual harassment and assault on a public transit system in the United States.

According to the survey, one in five transit riders had experienced sexual harassment on public transit, with women nearly three times as likely as men to experience it. Verbal harassment was most common (75 percent). Twenty-six percent had been touched in a sexual way, and 2 percent had experienced sexual assault.

Metro reporting data show that harassment incidents are most prevalent during rush hour and on the busier Red and Orange lines. The April 12 crime fits this exactly as the rape occurred during the end of morning rush hour in a Red Line car.

Sexual harassment and assault on public transit, of course, is not limited to the District. It is a problem across the nation. A national study commissioned by SSH in 2014 found that 18 percent of people had experienced sexual harassment on public transit. It is also a problem all over the world. In 2014, the Thomas Reuters Foundation surveyed riders of the largest transit systems in the world, and sexual harassment was a significant problem on every system.

After the April 12 attack here, the question has arisen: What is WMATA’s responsibility to address the problem and to notify the public?

WMATA is doing more than any other U.S. transit agency to address public sexual harassment and assault on its system. Since 2012, we have worked with WMATA on two public awareness campaigns, and we will release a third campaign this summer. The new survey showed the PSAs are making an impact, as among harassed persons, those who saw the ads were twice as likely to report the incident as those who did not. We’ve also partnered with WMATA on several public awareness events at Metro stations, the launch of an online reporting portal and email address to make it easier to report instances, and training for front-line staff to respond to the problem.

But there are gaps. There needs to be more transparency in reporting by WMATA. Fortunately, General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld announced last week that Metro police will make public notifications of any violent crime the same day. This week, he made good on his promise when Metro issued a press release about a man arrested on charges of misdemeanor sexual abuse less than 24 hours after its occurrence. This is a critical component for public safety — as long as doing so will not hinder an investigation or compromise the safety of a survivor. We also want to see continued dedicated training of front-line Metro staff so they can be an even better resource for riders in crisis.

Riders can play a role, too. They can look out for others who may be harassed and see if the harassed person is okay, create a distraction or interruption or initiate some other non-confrontational action that can help keep everyone safe. Riders can also report incidents they observe or experience. Metro ensures a response within 48 hours to reports made through the online portal. And these reports help WMATA track patterns and identify behaviors that could escalate into something more severe. Each report becomes part of WMATA’s quarterly reports about transit issues.

Many systems internationally have turned to sex-segregation as an answer, with women-only buses and subway cars offered during rush hour. We do not see these as realistic, long-term solutions and are grateful WMATA is willing to work to address these issues in other ways. We hope that this outrageous, brutal attack will spur them on to continue their work and to do even more to make the system safe for everyone.

Jessica Raven is executive director of Collective Action for Safe Spaces. Holly Kearl is the executive director of Stop Street Harassment.