More than a third of women sexually harassed on train and Tube journeys, figures show

 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

More than a third of all British women who travel by railway are likely to be assaulted during their commute, new data commissioned by the British Transport Police (BTP) has revealed.

BTP data also indicates that most assaults occur during the evening rush hour when trains are packed and busy.

Unacceptable behaviour such as leering, catcalling, touching, pressing, upskirting or indecent exposure is being experienced by women more than ever, with 51% of female victims stating that other rail passengers intervened to try to help.

However, only one in five people who have witnessed incidents of sexual harassment reported it to police.

BTP Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Furnell called on the community to watch out and stand up for each other while catching the train or tube.

“I’ll guarantee that most of us have told our daughters, mums, or friends to be careful on their way home when they’re travelling alone late at night – perhaps to share their journeys and stick to well-lit areas,” he said.

“But we know that sexual harassment and offending can take place at any hour of the day, and our figures show that it’s most likely to happen at the busiest hours when carriages are most full.

“This means we all have a part to play in taking our heads out of our phones or newspapers and being aware of what’s going on around us – and if we see something that isn’t right, doing something about it, whether that’s intervening, if you feel safe to do so or reporting it to police.”

Mr Furnell urged members of the public to report incidents of sexual harassment, whether experienced or witnessed, to the police.

“Driving out this unacceptable behaviour is our number one priority at British Transport Police,” he said, adding: “We will always believe you and take you seriously.”

The BTP survey does indicate that rail passengers are looking out for each other. However, officials are urging the public to report sexual harassment incidents to police so offenders can be held to account.

Chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group Jacqueline Starr revealed that the industry is working hand in hand with BTP to stamp out sexual harassment on trains.

“The latest data shows that harassment doesn’t just happen out of sight,” Ms Starr said.

“Experiences of sexual harassment are sadly a reality for many women, but as an industry, our message is clear: any form of sexual harassment on the rail network is completely unacceptable, and we are working with the British Transport Police to confront this problem.”

Specialist teams of plain-clothed British Transport officers use data provided by the public to target patrols and identify offenders.

On trains, the rail industry and BTP are rolling out a new, ongoing anti-sexual harassment campaign to educate passengers on how to recognise situations of sexual harassment, how to intervene safely, and how to report perpetrators to keep all passengers safe from harassment while commuting to work, home, or wherever their destination may be.