They went to the bathroom together as women often do, only to have a train employee allegedly call them porn stars.
Five young women say they were horrified when an operator on a commuter train heading to Ogden, Utah, confronted the group about going to the bathroom together. They were on their way to a summer concert series on Tuesday, all of them 20 to 22 years old.
"'If I see one more of your group of friends going back to the bathroom together again, then y'all are getting off at the next stop," the employee said, according to Alyssa Childs, one of the women in the group. "This ain't Pornhub, this is public transit," the employee added, according to Childs. The employee suggested they were porn actresses working for Pornhub, an adult video website.
Another woman in the group started recording video on her phone soon after, because she said they were afraid of what would come next.
The Utah Transit Authority said Friday that following an investigation that involved the video shot by the woman, the worker is no longer employed by the agency. The UTA did not name the employee in its statement on the incident.
"UTA deeply regrets the incident and expects its employees to always behave professionally and respectfully," the statement read. "Interim Executive Director Steve Meyer has spoken personally to some of the individuals affected, apologizing on behalf of the agency for the egregious and regrettable behavior they experienced."
A trip to the bathroom startled them
Two young women in the group went to the bathroom on the train together, Childs told CNN. One of them needed a tampon and she was afraid to go to the bathroom alone because of the dangers of public transit, Childs said.
"They were in there only for a short period of time before somebody started banging and pushing on the door, yelling, 'Only one at a time.'" Childs, 20, told CNN. "It startled them so they hurried and got out of the bathroom. When they walked out, there was no one there."
The pair was so "freaked out" by what happened that they didn't get to finish using the restroom, Childs said.
Childs and Lexi Beckstead, 21, who was in their group, headed back to the bathroom with one of the friends for safety.
Nothing happened after the three returned from the restroom, Childs and Beckstead said. The train operator passed by their seats but didn't say anything. A few minutes later, he returned and allegedly suggested they were porn stars. That moment wasn't captured on film.
The train operator left the car. A bystander in their train car overheard the porn star comment and intervened.
Christy Atkinson, a 44-year-old mother and business owner, checked on the women to see if they were okay. She told CNN she heard the employee's comments, specifically calling the women porn stars.
Atkinson asked how old they were and when they said 20 and 21, she took action.
"'I have a 20-year-old. Let me take care of this,'" Atkinson said she told the women. She got the employee's first name, but he would not give his last name. She said she told him she would be writing him up for "treating those girls the way" he did.
As Atkinson returned from confronting the employee, he followed her back to their seats. This time, Beckstead started recording on her phone.
"I told you and whoever you went in with the first time not to do it like three times," the employee told the women in the video. The group interjected, saying it was two different groups of women who went to the bathroom.
"You called us porn stars," Childs can be heard telling the employee.
"I don't care," he replies.
The back-and-forth continues and Childs says, "These women needed tampons. What's wrong with that?"
"Why does it take all three of them 10 minutes? Were you putting them in each other?" the man asks, according to the video.
"What the f***!" Childs exclaims.
As multiple people are heard yelling, Atkinson can be heard on the video.
"'Are you putting them in each other?' Did you really just say that?" Atkinson said. "You are disgusting."
A mother on the train stepped in to help
Atkinson interjected and tried to help the women, she said.
"It scared me for them. I wanted to protect them and that's why I did as much as I did," Atkinson said. "All I could think about was my daughter and what if that was happening to my daughter. When he finally left, all the girls were in tears calling their moms."
"It has affected these girls. It affected me," she said.
When Atkinson got home, she wanted to help the women more, so she shared Beckstead's videos on Facebook with permission. The videos have been viewed more than 250,000 times as of Friday evening.
Atkinson and the group of women have been talking ever since the train incident.
"I don't need any credit or a pat on the back," she said. "I was just being a mom and I was taking care of 20-year-olds that were being abused. That's all I was doing."
The women said they felt sexualized
Beckstead said she isn't just upset about this incident -- she's upset because it's an example of something that happens to women frequently.
"I feel like a lot of men are conditioned to think of women only sexually. This is an experience that's not out of the ordinary. Things like this happen to women all of the time. People make inappropriate comments and jokes and we just had the nerve to call him out for it and stick up for ourselves," she said.
"I am angry about every single time something like that has happened to me, my friends, my mom, my sister, my cousins, my aunts," she said. "When is it going to end? What do we have to do to prove to everybody that we deserve to be respected? We are not going to be sexualized when we don't want to be."
Childs agreed, adding that women cannot be held accountable for the actions of others. "You can't justify your behavior based on what I was wearing, what I was doing, what I was saying, how my makeup is, how old I am," she said. " I could be any woman dressed any way and men will still make inappropriate comments."
As a result of the incident, she and Beckstead said they are giving interviews only to female journalists.
'It's OK to speak up'
Beckstead wants more education to go into training employees on how to deal with situations like this and doesn't think people should vilify the employee.
"I don't think that he's necessarily the villain. I think, as cliched as this sounds, society is more to blame," Beckstead said. "Our mothers and fathers raised men to treat women like that."
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