Sexual offences against young women up 33% on London public transport

Lex Gibbon, 19, has shared her experiences after being harassed by a man at a Tube station (British Transport Police)
Lex Gibbon, 19, has shared her experiences after being harassed by a man at a Tube station (British Transport Police)

Sex offences and harassment against young women on London transport have surged by a third in a year, the British Transport Police has said.

The force said in 2023, 320 young women and girls aged between 10 and 19 reported incidents of sexual offences and harassment in London, from 240 recorded in 2022.

Officers said that they believed many more incidents were going unrecorded, despite increased awareness by passengers of the need to report unacceptable behaviour.

Lex Gibbon, 19, was among those encouraging passengers to report offences after she was followed through a Tube station by a man who verbally abused her and touched her.

Ms Gibbon, a Hertfordshire-based singer, has since released a track, ‘Audacity’ about the experience.

She said that at the time she had “no idea” that 61016, the British Transport Police number to report incidents on trains and Tubes, existed.

“I was followed through an underground train station by a man who made me feel extremely unsafe, scared and vulnerable,” she said.

“At the time I had no idea that text 61016 existed. I believe it’s really important to help women feel safer on public transport, so when I wrote ‘Audacity’ about my experience I felt it could really raise awareness for the initiative.”

BTP Assistant Chief Constable Paul Furnell said the force was receiving “more and more reports” as passengers “have had enough of this disgusting behaviour”.

“We use reports from multiple passengers to secure the strongest possible sentences for sex offenders,” he said.

“Sadly, we know that many women feel that they have no option but to put up with sexual harassment.

“That’s not the case: if someone is persistently bothering you and makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, please text 61016 to report it.”

TfL has also backed the awareness campaign, saying the “safety of women and girls is an absolute priority for us.”

“We are actively promoting the importance of reporting crimes that we know are underreported, and welcome the increase in reporting of sexual offences as evidence that more women and girls and bystanders have the confidence to come forward and report experiences, knowing that they will be taken seriously and that offenders will be pursued,” said Siwan Hayward, TfL’s Director of Security, Policing and Enforcement.

“We encourage anyone who experiences or witnesses this behaviour to report it to the police or a member of staff so that we can take action against offenders and put the right measures in place to prevent this from happening.”

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