Tackling sexual harassment on the network

Transport for London poster entitled 'Distract with a question'

Keeping our passengers and staff safe is our priority. ❤️ That’s why, together with the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), British Transport Police (BTP), Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), White Ribbon UK and other women’s safety groups, we’re raising awareness of our zero tolerance approach to all forms of sexual harassment on London public transport. 🤚

Sexual harassment on public transport

Sexual harassment is a form of violence, most often directed against women and girls in public places. Therefore, we’re challenging the normalisation and acceptance of these behaviours as ‘something that happens’ to women and girls. We will always take the strongest possible action to support our passengers. 

It is not just those targeted that are affected, it also affects how safe all women and girls feel when travelling. In UN research released in 2021, 71% of women of any age said they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces. That figure rises to 86% among 18-24-year-olds. These alarming statistics are echoed across numerous pieces of research.

Research also shows that nearly half of those who experience sexual harassment do not tell anyone. Whether you experience or witness this behaviour, it’s vital you report it. This helps us and the police to put the right interventions in place to stop this behaviour and bring offenders to justice. 

The following behaviours are common examples of sexual harassment, which we do not tolerate on public transport:   

  • Transport for London poster entitled 'Catcalling' with guidance on how to report sexual harassment on public transport
  • Transport for London poster entitled 'Exposing' with guidance on how to report sexual harassment on public transport
  • Transport for London poster entitled 'Cyberflashing' with guidance on how to report sexual harassment on public transport
  • Transport for London poster entitled 'Pressing' with guidance on how to report sexual harassment on public transport
  • Transport for London poster entitled 'Touching' with guidance on how to report sexual harassment on public transport
  • Transport for London poster entitled 'Staring' with guidance on how to report sexual harassment on public transport
  • Transport for London poster entitled 'Upskirting' with guidance on how to report sexual harassment on public transport
  1. Cat Calling 

Making unsolicited remarks of a sexual nature about someone   

  1. Exposing 

Revealing intimate body parts    

  1. Cyber-flashing 

Sending or showing sexual content without consent   

  1. Pressing 

Rubbing against someone on purpose    

  1. Touching 

Touching someone inappropriately   

  1. Staring 

Intrusive staring of a sexual nature   

  1. Upskirting 

Taking photos under someone’s clothing 

White Ribbon Day 2023

We’re supporting White Ribbon Day on the 25 November. White Ribbon UK are encouraging individuals and organisations to make consistent choices and actions to #ChangeTheStory for women and girls, so that they may live their lives free from the fear of violence.

On Saturday 25 November, we will be hosting a White Ribbon Day event at Kings Cross Station. The event will run from 10:00 – 18:00 and our policing partners will be supporting the White Ribbon team, ambassadors, champions and our station staff to raise awareness of the day.

At the event there will be 👇

  • Opportunities for customers to ‘make the promise’ and receive a White Ribbon badge .
  • Information and leaflets on our Bystander Campaign and education on how you can become an active bystander.
  • Virtual Reality Headsets with immersive bystander scenarios 

How we’re combatting sexual harassment on the network

Our campaign builds on efforts to tackle sexual harassment through Project Guardian and the award-winning Report it to Stop it communications campaigns. This is an important step in improving the safety of women and girls as they travel in the capital. 👍 

It also aims to encourage passengers to support their fellow passengers by safely intervening if they witness an incident of sexual assault. We aren’t asking customers to police the network but there a number of techniques you can use to help.

We have an extensive CCTV network, our staff wear body-worn video cameras, and they have training on how to deal with these behaviours. Other measures include more than 2,500 police and police community support officers and 500 TfL enforcement officers patrolling the network, and thousands of frontline transport staff across the network to support customers. The police also carry out targeted policing and investigation activity to identify and apprehend sexual offenders and harassers. 👏 

“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.” Siwan Hayward, TfL’s Head of Transport Policing  

How to be an active bystander

It’s important we look out for our fellow passengers and speak up as bystanders so that we hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. ️📢 

The following interventions can be an effective and safe way to help someone who has experienced sexual harassment: 

👀 Distract with a question   

You can help diffuse an incident of sexual harassment by asking the person targeted a question, such as “what’s the next stop?”, or “do you have the time?”   

✏️ Make a note   

Make a note of what is happening, where you are (what line, station, bus number or tube/train carriage number), what time it is, what the perpetrator looks like, what they’re wearing and any other important details. Reporting what you witness helps with the investigation and can stop it happening to someone else.  

💖 Make sure they are OK   

Following an incident of sexual harassment, the support of a fellow customer can help the person targeted feel less isolated and more confident in reporting it. Check in with the person targeted and ask “are you ok?”, or let them know that “what happened isn’t ok”.   

You can also: 

  • Ask the person targeted if they are ok. 
  • Speak to a member of TfL staff for help 

Find out more information about tackling sexual harassment.

How and what to report

You don’t have to be a victim of sexual harassment to report it. Stand by your fellow Londoners by reporting it on their behalf. 👍 

Report an incident on the bus network with the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). For all other TfL services, text British Transport Police on 61016. In an emergency, call 999

Also, you can now download the BTP’s new Railway Guardian app to report any form of sexual harassment.

Useful information to include in a report: 

What happened: the public transport mode you were on and what the offender was doing. Describe what the offender looked like (their appearance, clothing etc.). Similarly, describe what you look like and what you were wearing. This can make it easier for police to find the offender when they look through the CCTV footage. 

Where it happened: the station/stop you were at/near. Include the direction you were travelling in and the station the offender boarded/alighted the service at. 

When it happened: What time you boarded the public transport mode you were on. Also, include if you saw the offender get on or off and at what time the incident occurred. 

Find out more about reporting sexual harassment and other support services available

Your questions answered

Don’t the police have bigger things to worry about?

Sexual harassment of any kind is totally unacceptable. Nothing is more important than the safety of our passengers and staff. The police will investigate every report and will provide you with help and support.

Are all these behaviours even a crime?

We don’t want you to have to figure out if what you have seen or experienced is a crime or not. If something has made you feel uncomfortable and you report it, the police will investigate it for you. 

It’s also important to remember that sometimes, it’s not just about whether the behaviour itself is a crime or not. The person who is acting this way may be known to police and may have already behaved in this way before and have restrictions applied to their use of the railway. For example, someone who is subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order will have restrictions applied to what they can or cannot do and breaching these is a crime. These restrictions aren’t the same for everyone, as they are made based on the nature of that person’s previous offending behaviour. 

Some of these behaviours are sexual assaults, why do the posters call them ‘harassment’?

The type of behaviours that might be considered as sexual harassment cover such a broad range, including verbal abuse, non-verbal activity, physical assault, and even behaviours that are perpetrated online. There is no universally agreed term that captures all of these, and terms such as ‘sexual harassment’, ‘unwanted sexual behaviour’, ‘sexual violence’ and ‘sexual assault’ are often used interchangeably. We want a consistent message that let’s everyone know that none of this behaviour is acceptable. We know from our research that it’s common for people to think that what they have seen or experienced isn’t ‘serious enough’ to warrant them seeking help or reporting, so we want to reassure people that this is not the case. If it’s made you feel uncomfortable, it’s all serious to us. 

Is this campaign just aimed at women?

No. Research and insights from the charities and advisors that we work with tells us that sexual harassment in public spaces disproportionately affects women and is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men. But anyone can experience this behaviour. It doesn’t matter who it has happened to, and who has done it to them, this campaign applies to everyone. Whether you are a customer or a member of TfL staff, no one should have to put up with this type of behaviour from anyone. 

Why don’t people who are experiencing it speak up at the time when it’s happening?

All forms of sexual harassment can be extremely frightening, either due to the experience of the behaviour itself, or the threat of how the situation may escalate. People, particularly women and younger public transport users, are often concerned that the behaviour might escalate if they say something. There is no right way to respond to sexual harassment, and sometimes our bodies respond automatically to threatening situations, including: 

·       Fight: physically struggling or pushing someone away, or verbally reprimanding the person. 
·       Flight: moving or running away from the perpetrator/situation. 
·       Friend: ‘befriending’ the person who is posing the threat e.g. placating them, ‘playing along’. 
·       Freeze/Flop: being physically unable to move or say anything either due to muscles tensing or loosening.
It can also take time to come to terms with what has happened. It’s never too late to speak up, but we would always encourage people to report as soon as they feel able to so that the police can exploit as many opportunities to gather evidence, like CCTV, as quickly as they can. 

What’s the difference between reporting to the MPS, the BTP or reporting to the line powered by Crimestoppers?

MPS are responsible for law enforcement across Greater London. They police London’s roads and surface transport network including London buses to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour. If an incident occurs on the bus network, report on their website or by calling 999 in an emergency. 

BTP are the police force who operate on Britain’s railways are responsible for policing the Tube, DLR, Trams, London Overground, Emirates Air Line and the rail network in London. They have resources to respond to and investigate incidents. If you need immediate assistance or would like to formally report any form of sexual harassment across the TfL Tube or rail network, then you should report this to the BTP. 

We know that sometimes people feel unable to go directly to police or don’t feel comfortable giving their details to police. Crimestoppers is an independent charity that gives people the power to speak up and stop crime, 100% anonymously. By phone or online at any time. No police contact. No witness statements. No courts. 

If I report to the police, do I have to give a statement or go to court?

No, if you feel able to support a prosecution then you may be asked to. But even if you don’t want to do this, it’s still worth making a report as this could provide the police with important intelligence to help them identify patterns of behaviour.

Will anything happen to the person if I report it?

There are several things that could happen when you make a report depending on when and what is reported. For example, the police control room can dispatch officers to a location if required or put you in touch with an officer to speak at a convenient time. The police have successfully convicted people before for these types of offences. 

Why don’t you have ‘women-only’ carriages?

We want everyone to be able to travel on the network in safety and comfort, without the need for segregation. There’s simply no excuse for this kind of behaviour. 

Hear more from us

Siwan Hayward, Director of Compliance Policing Operations Safety at TfL, the British Transport Police and Solace Women’s Aid joined us live on YouTube to talk about how we’re tackling violence against women and girls 👇

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