Majority of sexual assaults on the Tube 'committed during rush hours'

Exclusive: New figures challenge popular belief women are most at risk when travelling late at night

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The Independent Online

The majority of sexual assaults on the Tube are committed during peak travel times, according to new figures which challenge the popular belief that women are most at risk when travelling late at night.

Statistics from the British Transport Police (BTP) showed that between 1 January 2014 and 8 December 2015, 322 sexual assaults were reported on the London Underground network between 5pm and 7pm, along with 291 from 8am until 10am. This compares to just 110 between 11pm and 1am.

Sarah Green, the acting director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “These figures tell a compelling story about how sexual harassment is mostly experienced during daytime commuter journeys – not during late-night social hours.”

The findings “explode a myth that women who have been drinking or who are dressed a certain way provoke sexual harassment, because the victims at peak morning and early evening travel times are largely working women making commuter journeys”, she added.

“The figures may also similarly explode myths about perpetrators of sexual harassment, because at 8am they are sober men who purposefully look for chances to offend, not late-night opportunists,” said Ms Green.

Bryony Beynon, co-director of Hollaback London, a campaign dedicated to ending street harassment, said: “Sexual assault is a 24-hour problem. It’s not about drunk men taking an opportunity, it’s still very calculated.”

The figures partly reflect the fact that more people travel on public transport at peak times. But they also suggest that measures aimed at making it safer for women to travel late at night will be insufficient for getting to grips with the problem. 

During the Labour leadership campaign in August, Jeremy Corbyn said he would listen to calls to introduce women-only carriages on the London Underground after 10pm. This proposal highlights how the issue of sexual assault during the day is largely overlooked.

There has also been a spike in reported sexual assaults on the London Underground in recent months. July was the month during which most sexual assaults were reported in 2014, with 71 incidents recorded. 

In 2015, however, 94 sexual assaults were reported in October, 81 reported in June and over 71 assaults reported each month between August and November.

BTP highlighted that the rise in the number of recorded sexual assaults may be due to campaigns, such as Project Guardian, which encourage victims not to suffer in silence. 

A spokesperson from BTP said: “Significant work has taken place to encourage reporting of sexual offences on trains and tubes under the successful Report it to Stop it campaign.” 

The Report it to Stop it YouTube advert urges viewers to text 61106 to report incidents of sexual assault.

Case study: ‘I was paralysed with shock and fear’

Candy, a 26-year-old masters student, was the victim of a sexual assault while travelling on a train in London at peak time in April 2015. 

My mum was over from Australia and she came to get me from work. We were on the TfL Overground train from Stratford and it was very crowded. I was facing her and we were talking, and then I felt something touching my bum. 

I thought it was someone’s bag at first, but then it became obvious that it was deliberate. Then the guy started really going for it and kind of kneading my bum, and I could hear him panting too. It went on for ages and I was too scared to say anything out loud, paralysed with shock and fear. 

I always thought I would be the sort of person who would speak up for themselves but it’s actually really different when it happens to you. I didn’t see the point in reporting it. 

We are taught as women to be aware of getting onto transport late at night. If someone drunk gets on the Tube with you, you move to another side of the carriage. 

But this wasn’t even in  winter, it was about 5pm and light outside. It was absolutely not the situation I would have expected anything like that to happen in at all.