According to TFL, 1 in 10 Londoners experience unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport, but over 90 per cent didn’t report it to police, which is why they’ve launched the ‘Report it to stop it’ campaign.
So why do the majority of incidents go unreported?
Maybe it’s because the thousands of people we encounter on public transport render us anonymous in London. There are so many faces that it’s far easier to bury our heads in a book or lose ourselves in music. But is it this anonymity that gives a sexual predator a feeling of power, and makes the victim feeling they can’t do anything about it?
That was certainly the case when a friend of mine experienced sexual harassment on public transport last year. On a tube in the middle of summer, she felt a hand on the back of her skirt in a way that made her uncomfortable and a little frightened. The shock was so great that all she could do was turn around, stare at the man in horror and quickly leave the carriage. She didn’t report the assault to the police at the time. And let’s be clear, that’s what it was – a sexual assault.
It also doesn’t help that peak-time journeys are so packed with people that you find yourself intimately and abhorrently close to a total stranger, often for longer than the average roll beneath the bedsheets. Evidently some people take horrific advantage of this situation, one in which we find ourselves so vulnerable.
The fact is, unwanted sexual behaviour needs to – and must – be reported. Women have the right to feel safe no matter where they are. We have to speak up and point the target at those that will make us feel unsafe.
TFL and the British Transport Police are encouraging us all to Report It to stop it. There’s a number to call (0800 40 50 60) or text (61016) to report incidents.
“If you choose to report any incident of a sexual nature to the police or a member of rail staff, you will be always be believed and taken seriously, no matter where you are in the country,” the BTP said in a statement about the launch. “Your evidence can help us identify and catch offenders, and make sure our officers are in the right place at the right time.”
You can also help spread the word by joining the #reportittostopit Twitter Thunderclap on 27 April.