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Sunday, 16 January 2022

Unwanted violent, aggressive or sexual behaviours prevalent on UK public transport

THE Suzy Lamplugh Trust has today published the findings of its Driving Out Violence and Aggressionreport, in recognition of National Personal Safety Day.

As many as 90% of respondents from the survey experienced unwanted behaviours on public transport more than once in their lifetime, and half of the respondents experienced them over 10 times. Disturbingly, 1 in 5 respondents have experienced them over 50 times in their lifetime.

The most common unwanted behaviours experienced by respondents in the past five years are: staring (64%), intimidatingly sitting or standing right by someone (51%), verbal abuse (42%), refusing to cease an unwanted conversation that is aggressive or intimidating in nature (36%) and pressing up against someone (32%). These figures are high despite reduced footfall on all public transport during the pandemic. 

Although unwanted behaviours affected all demographics, women were more affected than male respondents in the past five years (90% and 81% respectively). Notably female respondents were more likely to experience sexual assault and rape, as well as most behaviours that could be interpreted as sexual harassment or assault. Men meanwhile were more likely to experience behaviours amounting to physical assault. The proportion of respondents who had experienced unwanted behaviours in the past five years was also higher among LGBTQ+ respondents (94%), and Black and ethnic minority groups (92%). Hate speech, in particular, was more commonly experienced among Black and ethnic minority respondents, with 50% having experienced hate speech on public transport in the last five years in comparison with 18% of White respondents.  

While most respondents indicated that they had experienced unwanted behaviours that were perpetrated by members of the public (98%), 13% also indicated that a taxi or private hire vehicle (PHV) driver was responsible for the unwanted behaviours in their lifetime. The figures were higher for women in comparison with their male counterparts (13% and 6% respectively).  

Only 14% of respondents had reported the abusive behaviour to the police, while 85% had not. When asked why not, the majority of respondents indicated that they did not feel it was worth the time and emotional stress (36%) or that they did not feel the report would be taken seriously (34%). No action was taken in the vast majority of the cases that were reported (68%), and of those where no action was taken only 6% were offered further support, which included signposting to specialist services. Only 1% of respondents who had ever experienced unwanted behaviours indicated that the perpetrator/s had been convicted. These findings reflect a lack of faith in the criminal justice system amongst victims and the overall failure of the system to adequately address these behaviours.  

Unwanted violent, aggressive or sexual behaviours prevalent on UK public transportSuzy Lamplugh Trust is supporting Our Streets Now and Plan UK in calling for a standalone offence for public sexual harassment. We are also calling on the Government to urgently support the Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (safeguarding and road safety) Bill through Parliament to protect the safety of all passengers. 

The Trust has also produced a signposting leaflet for victims and bystanders of unwanted behaviours on public transport. A variety of support options should be easily accessible for all, whether that be texting BTP anonymously on 61016 or calling the National Stalking Helpline for specialist support on 0808 802 0300. We encourage supporters of the campaign to share the leaflet across their social media platforms and services throughout the day and going forward.  

Suky Bhaker, CEO of Suzy Lamplugh Trust said:

“Our survey indicates that aggressive, violent, sexual and unwanted behaviours are far too prevalent across our public transport system. Physical and sexual assaults are of huge concern, as is the insidious yet often non-physically harmful nature of other unwanted behaviours. Female respondents are more likely to experience behaviours that could be described as public sexual harassment, many of which are not captured by the law.

“We are supporting Our Streets Now and Plan UK in calling for a standalone offence for public sexual harassment to cover this gap in legislation and ensure a zero-tolerance approach to all unwanted behaviours in public spaces. It’s also vital that we address the unwanted behaviours perpetrated in taxis and private hire vehicles. We believe it vital for the Government to urgently support the Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (safeguarding and road safety) Bill through Parliament to protect the safety of all passengers. Victims and bystanders alike should also have access to support whether that be with the police and/or other specialist services.” 

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