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New campaign to tackle sexual harassment on transport


Organised by Transport for London (TfL), in partnership with the Rail Delivery Group, British Transport Police, Metropolitan Police Service and women’s safety groups, it highlights various forms of unwanted sexual behaviour that can take place on public transport and aims to send a strong message to offenders that sexual harassment is not tolerated on TfL’s services.  

In a statement, TfL explained that sexual harassment is a form of violence – one which is most often directed against women and girls in public places. The safety of women and girls is an absolute priority for TfL, it said, and the new campaign is one element of its work to ensure everyone can travel with confidence.  

The campaign aims to challenge the normalisation and dismissal of this behaviour as ‘something that happens’ to women and girls on public transport and in other public spaces, making it clear that it is never acceptable and that the strongest possible action will always be taken.  

The following behaviours are highlighted by the campaign as common examples of sexual harassment, which are not tolerated on public transport:

Cat Calling – making unsolicited remarks of a sexual nature about someone   
Exposing – revealing intimate body parts    
Cyber-flashing – sending or showing sexual content without consent   
Pressing – rubbing against someone on purpose    
Touching – touching someone inappropriately   
Staring – intrusive staring of a sexual nature    
Upskirting – taking photos under someone’s clothing    

By raising awareness of these issues, TfL hopes to encourage Londoners to look out for and support each other, and to encourage bystanders to speak up so that perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions. This could involve people learning to recognise the signs of sexual harassment, providing support to the person who is being harassed or reporting the incident.      

Sexual harassment does not only affect those who are directly targeted - it can affect how safe all women and girls feel when travelling. A Centre for London survey from 2019 found that women were nearly twice as likely as men to mention personal safety as a barrier to walking and using public transport. Research also shows that nearly half of those who experience sexual harassment do not tell anyone. The campaign encourages customers and staff who experience or witness this behaviour to report it, which helps TfL and the police to put the right interventions in place to stop it happening again and bring offenders to justice. 

The new campaign builds on efforts by TfL and police to tackle unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport through Project Guardian and the award-winning Report it to Stop it communications campaigns.

A number of new posters form part of a joined-up national approach to addressing sexual harassment, featuring a consistent message across TfL’s network and the national rail network. The campaign will also include magazine and newspaper advertising, editorial partnerships and other communications. The materials, which will appear on buses and trains and at stops and stations, will help educate passengers about how to report incidents, encouraging them to do so wherever possible on the bus network at met.police.uk or, for all other TfL services, to text the British Transport Police on 61016. Alternatively, people can contact Crimestoppers, and should always call 999 in an emergency. 

Other measures to keep everyone safe on the network include more than 2,500 police and police community support officers and 500 TfL enforcement officers patrolling, thousands of frontline transport staff present across the network to support customers and an extensive CCTV network. The police also carry out targeted policing and investigation activity to identify and apprehend sexual offenders. TfL will also join forces with the British Transport Police and Metropolitan Police Service for a week of action to mark the launch of the campaign. The activity will include high visibility reassurance policing patrols and engagement activity with passengers to give them an opportunity to speak to the police about this issue and any concerns they have. Targeted police activity to deal with known offenders or hotspot locations will continue during the week of action. 

Siwan Hayward, TfL.

Director of compliance, policing, operations and security for TfL, Siwan Hayward, said: “We are working with our transport policing partners in the MPS and BTP to make sure our public transport networks are safe, and feel safe, for all our customers and staff. Tackling sexual harassment is an essential part of that. The primary aim of this campaign is to challenge this behaviour, sending a message to offenders that it’s wrong, it’s harmful and it won’t be tolerated on our services. We’re also asking those that experience or witness sexual harassment to report it so that we can work to prevent it and to take action against perpetrators.”

British Transport Police Detective Chief Inspector, Sarah White, said: “Unfortunately, incidents of sexual harassment are significantly under-reported as many people have come to accept this type of behaviour in public places. This needs to change. On top of our ongoing specialist patrols and covert officers on the network, we are committed to working alongside TfL to make the Underground, rail and tram networks a hostile environment for sexual harassment by encouraging everyone to report it to us. Each report we receive provides us with valuable information which we can use to build an accurate picture of an offender. Often it allows us to notice their behaviour patterns so we can take action. Save 61016 in your phone if you ever need us, no report is too small or too trivial and we will always take you seriously.” 

Jacqueline Starr, RDG.

Chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, Jacqueline Starr, said: “Sexual harassment, in all of its forms, is unacceptable and has no place on public transport networks and in wider society. The rail industry is united with TfL in our shared aim to ensure that we have no unsafe spaces and to show perpetrators that they are not welcome on our routes and services.” 

Earlier this month, TfL announced the return of the Night Tube, with the service resuming on the Victoria and Central lines on Saturday 27 November, after being suspended since March 2020 due to the pandemic. Services on these two lines will run throughout the night on Fridays and Saturdays, providing more options for customers who need to travel at night either for leisure or for work, while also making journey times shorter and offering safer routes home for women, girls and all Londoners. Training still needs to take place on the other Night Tube lines – the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines – so Night Tube services on those lines can return as soon as possible.  


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