Are you a Londoner? If so, there’s a one in 10 chance you’ve experienced unwanted sexual behaviour on the city’s buses, trains and Underground network. If you’re a woman, the likelihood is far higher.
Transport networks across the world seem to be hotbeds of harassment for pretty obvious reasons. People are pushed close together, there’s less visibility to bystanders, and, worst come to worst, the perpetrator can just hop off at the next stop.
For similar reasons, the level of reporting of these offences on public transport is very low. Transport for London (TfL) and the British Transport Police (BTP) estimate that around 90 per cent of cases aboard their lines go unreported. This may be because victims aren’t aware any action can be taken; or maybe they have little faith that the person will ever be caught.
To tackle this low rate of reporting, BTP, TfL and London’s police forces, working with anti-harassment groups like the Everyday Sexism Project and the End Violence against Women Coalition, have launched “Project Guardian”. This includes stationing 2,000 officers and PCSOs on transport networks, and encouraging travellers to call or text to report harassment on the tube. According to the campaign’s “Report It” site, travellers can use the non-emergency phone line (101) or text service (61016) to report
anything of a sexual nature, including rubbing, groping, masturbation, leering, sexual comments, indecent acts, or someone taking photos of you without your consent. You don’t have to prove that it was a criminal offence or intentional to report it, we can investigate that for you.
The police then contact the victim to discuss what happened, and move forward with an investigation of the incident.
The website’s line on non-consensual photographs is particularly interesting given the recent controversy around “Women who eat on trains“, a Facebook group where travellers can upload covertly taken photos of, well, women eating on tubes. The founders, who stipulated that the photo must be of someone the taker doesn’t know, claimed that the group was “observational, not judgemental. It doesn’t intimidate or bully”. They argued that they were within their rights to take these photographs; but this guidance from TfL tells a different story.
The campaign also comes with its own video, “Report it to stop it”, featuring a woman deciding whether or not to report inappropriate behaviour on a tube, and eventually leaving the carriage and texting the BTP’s number. It’s pretty hard even to watch, which we’re guessing is kind of the point:
You can read more about the campaign here.
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