Chief Constable Lucy D'Orsi explains why tackling all forms of unwanted sexual behaviour on the railway and underground networks is a priority for her in her role as Chief at British Transport Police.

On my train commute this week, I took a few moments to reflect on the events that have captured the headlines over the past few months. I looked around at my fellow female passengers and it struck me that added to the natural nervousness in returning to train services post ‘lockdown’, they may also be nervous about their own safety.

Statistics show that people experience fewer sexual offences and other unwanted sexual behaviour (USB) on trains than in other public places. My message is clear: we must have a zero tolerance towards sexual offending and USB on the rail network and London Underground. Everyone should have the confidence to travel safely and without harassment or assault wherever and whenever they like.

Everyone must play a part in creating a hostile environment for those whose actions and words fall below what society demands and the law expects. Within the context of countering the threat posed by terrorists, we have, for decades, reflected that “communities” defeat terrorism. Defeating unwanted sexual behaviour is no different. Our communities and our passengers can defeat it and we unquestionably all have a part to play.

BTP wants to hear from those who are victims or witnesses of 'unwanted sexual behaviour' which includes verbal abuse, inappropriate conversations or prolonged and disconcerting staring or ‘leering’. Unfortunately, we know there is significant under-reporting, so it is difficult to establish the true extent of the offending behaviour. In research conducted by Rail Delivery Group, insights revealed that high levels of normalisation mean that people have come to expect and accept unwanted sexual attention in public spaces. This must change.

BTP is committed to ensuring victims and survivors of all forms of sexual offences, unwanted sexual behaviour and domestic abuse, receive a consistent and supportive service from us when they report it.

As we emerge from lockdown with the roadmap to the post pandemic landscape, we have an opportunity to be stronger in our intolerance of unwanted sexual behaviour, harassment and assault. We are seeing a 95% compliance rate of face masks on the rail network, which clearly demonstrates that when there is a shared and common purpose, collectively we can have a huge impact.

To create a hostile environment for those intent on committing sexual offences or unwanted sexual behaviour, I would ask everyone to report it. As employees return to public transport, students to universities and schools, everyone can play a part in resetting behaviours by encouraging reporting by victims and witnesses and promoting zero tolerance. Are you playing you part?

I'd encourage everyone to report it to stop it by texting 61016 (dial 999 in an emergency).