This weekend brought with it the launch of London’s Night Tube. Many of you may well have been excited about this, and we were too, but you may also have felt anxious about travelling on the Tube late at night. We wanted to let you know that this feeling is normal and you are not alone.
Around 90% of women experience some form of harassment on a regular basis, and this does not stop on the Tube. In fact last year there were 1,961 incidents of different forms of sexual violence recorded on the Tube – a 41% increase from last year. Notably these reported incidents only brush upon the surface of the scale of what women, girls and non-binary people experience. This is because many marginalised people will never feel able to report their experience of sexual harassment due to the intersecting complexities that surround reporting. Simply put – reporting is often hard, overwhelming, stressful, and places the burden of responsibility on those who experience harassment.
Transport for London (TFL) has done a great job in trying to ensure women and girls feel safe when travelling on the Tube, and we were pleased to have witnessed British Transport Police (BTP) and TFL stick to their word in regards to increasing the police presence across the stations that were open for the Night Tube. That being said, we are also really aware that police visibility is not a real answer to the violence that women and girls experience on public transport – sexual harassment is a deeply engrained problem within our culture, and this cannot be solved by a criminal justice system that routinely fails women and girls. An increase in police does not always make you feel safer, and it also cannot do this in all instances. This is especially true if you have had a bad experience with the police or if you are unable to say anything before, during, or after you experience harassment or violence.
Harassment and violence on public transport, especially on public transport at night, is likely to follow on from many experiences of aggressive sexual advances, groping, being followed, or any number of violence intrusions while trying to enjoy a night out. As a person experiencing harassment you may feel like someone is invading your space. You might feel like someone is saying things that are not ok. You may feel powerless, exhausted or frustrated. You may also feel silenced and like no one will step in. The most important thing to remember is that if you feel like someone is making you uncomfortable then that is something they are choosing to do – they are not flattering you or complimenting you and you are not misunderstanding them. They are consciously making a choice to harass or assault you. And that is not ok.
To those who witness and partake in harassment and violence on transport, and specifically on the Night Tube, it is vital to remember that something that may seem like flirting or fun to some passengers is experienced very differently by those who have already been dealing with harassment on a daily basis – and have most likely already been harassed that evening. We urge all passengers to be mindful of how their behavior can affect those who live with street harassment and gendered violence regularly, and we also encourage you to speak out and support those who appear uncomfortable. Important point: even if you think they should, NEVER pressure someone into reporting to the police. There are lots of reasons a person may not want to report what happened, and it should be their decision alone what they do. If they do ask for help in doing so, take their lead on that. Bystander intervention is powerful and challenges a culture that often legitimises violence against women and girls. That being said, intervention should always be survivor-centered and led by those who are marginalised.
At Hollaback London we are committed to ensuring that your stories are told, and also that your voices weave through any collective action we take to stop sexual harassment. If you do experience anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe on the Tube let us know. The best way to do this is by using our online mapping software on ldn.ihollaback.org. Our website will ask you for a location, so if you feel comfortable sharing this just use the nearest Tube stop and note in your description that this happened on the Night Tube. If you prefer you can get in touch via twitter, tweet us @hollabackLDN and/or use the hashtag #NightTube. If you feel able to you can also report your experiences to the police or anonymously to ‘Report it to Stop’ it here: http://report-it.tumblr.com.
Speaking out about what we endure on a daily basis is hard and exhausting, so it is also totally ok if you don’t get in touch. We are with you in spirit and you are not alone.
The Hollaback London Team
P.S. Share our graphics: