The safety of women on public transport is reaching new heights of importance, especially in light of a series of recent incidents wherein women have shared their experiences after being targeted and harrassed while trying to get home. One specific video of such an experience has gone viral on TikTok, with several women calling for staff to take greater precautions to try and stop this from happening in the future.
The clip, which was captured by the woman being targeted and then posted on X (formerly Twitter), depicts a hooded man trespassing on train tracks to harass a woman in North London. In the post, the woman can be heard and seen imploring the harasser to leave her alone during the encounter at Bruce Grove Overground station in Tottenham.
Despite her pleading “I don’t wanna chat to you, I don’t know you from anywhere. F*ck off,” the man persists, saying to her: “If you act up, I will follow you though.” The man can then be seen following her to the stairway until the video abruptly cuts off. Replying on X, British Transport Police stated that they are now investigating the incident. Social media users understandably expressed frustration over the lack of police and Transport for London (TFL) staff during late and early hours.
This, of course, is not the first time a woman has experienced this kind of abuse. As recounted in The Independent, Francesca McClimont shared her own story of being followed by a stranger after a night out in London. The woman stated: “As soon as I got home, I burst into tears.”
This unsettling incident occurred as she was waiting at a bus stop outside Angel tube station in the early morning hours. A man approached her from across the road, making inappropriate remarks and attempting to encroach upon her personal space. Despite her attempts to escape, he followed her onto the bus, persistently harassing her throughout the journey. While recalling the incident, McClimont questioned whether she had conveyed her discomfort effectively and whether the intervention was ever going to happen. While London buses are equipped with CCTV, McClimont pointed out that the bus driver failed to notice her distress, also highlighting that many of the city’s 19,000 bus stops lack surveillance cameras: “I felt terribly isolated. There should be improved CCTV for bus travel, especially at non-remote stops, with active monitoring during the early hours.”
If you search for ‘tube harassment’ on TikTok, you’ll find a substantial amount of daily content depicting women, in particular, being subjected to sexual harassment by men on the London Underground.
Women’s activist Farah Benis has emphasised the need for station personnel, viewing it as a failure of the rail service and a disregard for people’s safety. Benis recounted a personal experience from her youth when she was subjected to harassment on a London bus. Years later, Benis established Catcalls of London, an organisation that collects testimonies of unwanted sexual behaviour. Their efforts revealed that a significant portion of such incidents occurred on public transport, primarily involving adult men.
TFL’s crime report, published in July 2023, highlighted that concern about unwanted sexual behaviour was more common on the Underground, with women reporting higher levels of worry than men. Of the survey participants, 33 per cent reported experiencing worrying incidents on London’s public transport services. Eight per cent mentioned being victims of sexual harassment, while another eight per cent expressed concerns about the lack of police or staff presence.
Campaigns like ‘Report It to Stop It’ and ‘Speak up, Interrupt’ aim to empower bystanders to intervene. The British Transport Police has observed a threefold increase in reports of sexual harassment compared to the pandemic. While these campaigns have made a positive impact, Benis stressed the need for further investment in staff and training.
In recent years, the closure of ticket offices across the London transport network has resulted in a reduced number of visible staff members at train stations. The Mayor of London and the British Transport Police have committed to addressing these concerns, emphasising a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment. Their efforts include enhanced patrols and leveraging CCTV footage to identify offenders.
The collective goal is to ensure the safety and well-being of women and girls across the capital, regardless of the time of day or location.