What the man on the train did to me: When Emma Lindsey was the victim of gross indecency, she found London Underground staff unsympathetic

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
Last Wednesday, I was on the Tube doing the last leg of my journey to work. It was a cold, bright morning so I was well wrapped up: jeans, hooded sweatshirt, denim jacket, sheepskin coat, hiking boots and good, thick woolly socks. I'd just got a commission, all was right with the world.

I had my head buried in a magazine - Esquire - and was oblivious to people getting on or off. I glanced up from reading and noticed a man get on, but didn't give it a second thought until I caught his eye. He was staring at me. Fixedly. He had nasty eyes; weaselly. I looked away quickly and saw, for the first time, that I was alone in the carriage apart from the staring man.

Then I felt uneasy. I looked down at my magazine again but instinct put me on my guard. The situation didn't feel right. I'd stopped reading and was just looking at the page, my shoulders tensed. I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw him slide his hand into what I assumed was his pocket. Because of the suddenly charged atmosphere, I felt very threatened but kept my eyes down fearing he might have a gun or a knife in his pocket. I could still feel him looking at me. I started to calculate quickly what to do and figured we would soon be at Brixton.

Then the train slowed down, I looked up, past him, to see if we had got to the station but we had stopped in the tunnel. A blurred movement made me do a quick double take. His right hand, grasped around something, was moving really fast, up and down.

Utterly shocked, I realised he was masturbating. Apart from his breathing, it was quiet and he was still staring at me. Shock, and an instinctive feeling that I should appear nonplussed, made me snap shut my magazine, lock it in my briefcase and walk calmly towards the connecting door to the next carriage. But it was jammed shut.

Trying to keep a grip on my panic, I looked through the window to catch someone's attention but the next carriage was empty. I wanted to cry, a whimper rose in my throat but I kept it down. I knew I had to stay where I was, so I tried to open the window. I stood sideways on, not wanting to turn my back. He had his penis out, what else might he do? The window was also jammed, but I felt I had to show him I wasn't scared, even though I was more desperate than ever to get away from him.

At that moment, the train moved into Brixton station. My relief was physical, I sort of slumped. I waited for him to get off first, but he took his time about it, doing up his flies while looking over his shoulder at me.

We'd been in the end carriage so everyone else was way ahead on the platform. I stayed behind him and fear kept me there. He looked back at me three times, walking at a steady pace, and then nipped across to the opposite platform and on to another train.

I just watched him, stunned I think. I saw a train driver walking down the platform and I said matter-of-factly: 'There was a man wanking in front of me on the train.' The driver smirked, raised an eyebrow and said 'Really?' and walked away.

He could have done something: leapt on to the other train or radioed to the driver to stop it. But he did neither. I got the same indifference from the ticket collector. Neither member of London Underground staff could care less - so much for the Passenger Charter. Because they were so flippant, I started to doubt what had happened and my own judgement. Was I making a big deal out of this?

I walked out of the station in a daze and bumped into a British Transport Police officer. I blurted it to him and he immediately took charge of the situation, asking if I minded making an official statement. He suggested we go to the station's control room to check the video monitor. But as we were to learn from yet more shiftless staff, once they'd put down their newspapers and finished eating corned beef sandwiches, the platform cameras did not record. When I questioned the value of having a surveillance system which didn't record I was met with more shrugging of shoulders. I was livid; they were sheepish.

My policeman sympathised and then took me to the police station in Stockwell to make the statement. When he referred to me as 'the victim of gross indecency' I was confronted with the fact I had been a victim of a crime. It made me feel vulnerable, weak and frightened, but I still couldn't identify with a victim nametag.

When I got home after what had seemed an endless day, I threw some food down for the cats and flopped. Instantly, tears came coursing down my cheeks and I gave in to the storm. After I'd finished sobbing I felt so angry. I was furious that a total stranger had invaded my privacy to such a degree and taken away my confidence.