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British Transport Police launch Railway Guardian app encouraging bystanders to report sexual harassment on the railway

British Transport Police (BTP) is encouraging the public to do their bit to help reduce the increasing number of sexual harassment incidents on everyday train journeys.

A new campaign launched on 4 July called ‘Speak Up, Interrupt’, aims to empower bystanders and witnesses of all forms of inappropriate behaviour on the network to report incidents or safely intervene where they can, while BTP continues to boost specialist patrols and target hotspot locations.

The campaign has been developed in conjunction with rail industry partners, based on research from charities, campaign groups, and bystander behaviour experts.

Reports of sexual harassment and sexual offences to BTP have risen by 175% since before the pandemic (2019/20 compared to 2021/22). The data shows that more people are aware this behaviour isn’t acceptable, and that they are becoming more confident in reporting it to police. Although this is a step in the right direction, BTP knows there’s more to be done.

Being an active bystander is a significant way to make a difference. Alerting the police or taking simple non-confrontational steps to interrupt or diffuse a situation if you see inappropriate behaviour such as leering, catcalling, touching, pressing, upskirting or indecent exposure.

This could involve:

  • Speaking to police or rail staff
  • Giving the victim a way out of the situation by offering your seat
  • Interrupting the situation by striking up an unrelated conversation or standing between the perpetrator and the victim
  • Supporting the victim by asking them if they are ok
  • Or, if it is safe to do so, speaking calmly to the person causing the issue

Reports can be made by texting 61016 or via BTP’s new ‘Railway Guardian’ app, which is now available to download on the Apple and Google Play store. The app contains guides and advice on what information to report and examples of how to be an active bystander.

Detective Superintendent Sarah White, BTP Sexual Offences Lead, said: “We must shift the focus away from just relying on victims to report sexual harassment to us, because everyone has a part to play in driving out this unacceptable behaviour.

“We’re not asking people to police the railway, that’s our job. But small actions such as offering someone your seat if you notice them looking uncomfortable, alerting an officer, or reporting an incident to us can make an enormous difference.

“Your reports provide us with crucial information which helps us build a picture of what’s happening on the network so we can identify crime hotspots, deploy patrols to catch offenders, and crucially bring them to justice.

“As always, our officers are out across the network day and night looking out for you. Download our new Railway Guardian app for more information.”

For further help and guidance from the British Transport Police, visit their website.