Transport for London launches campaign to tackle sexual harassment
TfL’s new campaign aims to challenge the normalisation and dismissal of sexual harassment as just ‘something that happens’ on public transport and in other public spaces.
Transport for London (TfL) – in partnership with the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), the British Transport Police (BTP), the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and women’s safety groups - has launched a new campaign to tackle sexual harassment on the UK capital city’s transport network. The campaign 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.
Sexual harassment is a form of violence, most often directed against women and girls in public places. The safety of women and girls is an absolute priority for TfL, and this new campaign is one element of TfL’s work to ensure that everyone can travel with confidence.
The campaign aims to challenge the normalisation and dismissal of this behaviour as just ‘something that happens’ 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 engage 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 anyone feels 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 – both of which aimed to improve reporting levels and to create an environment on the network that does not tolerate intimidation and sexual harassment. The new campaign 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 to 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 that they have. Targeted police activity to deal with known offenders or hotspot locations will continue during the week of action.
Siwan Hayward, Director of Compliance, Policing, Operations and Security for Transport for London, said: “We are working with our transport policing partners in the MPS and BTP to make sure that our public transport networks are safe, and feel safe, for all of 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.”
Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: “Any incident of sexual harassment on our public transport network is one too many, and ensuring that women and girls feel safe while travelling around the capital is our top priority. This new campaign sends a strong message to offenders that unwanted sexual behaviour is never acceptable in any form, and encourages anyone who has experienced or witnessed it to report it. We know that women and girls often feel unsure about reporting these types of behaviours, but if it makes you uncomfortable, it’s serious. By working with partners on high visibility patrols, targeted policing and engagement activity, we can drive down sexual harassment on the network, ensure that passengers know what to do if they need help and bring perpetrators to justice.”
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 that 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, Chief Executive of the Rail Delivery Group, 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.”
Overall TfL figures indicate that use of London’s public transport network is at around 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels and that millions of Londoners are returning to the transport network, showing that they have confidence that it is safe, clean and reliable. There are now regularly more than 55 per cent of journeys on the Tube on weekdays compared to before the pandemic, but that has reached as high as 80 per cent at weekends, while ridership on buses is regularly at 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels and, on TfL rail services like London Overground, it is around 60 per cent, with weekends reaching even higher.
Earlier in October 2021, TfL announced the return of the Night Tube, with the service resuming on the Victoria and Central lines on 27 November 2021, 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 that Night Tube services on those lines can return as soon as possible.