General sexual harassment information

What do you mean by ‘violating someone’s dignity'?

Violating someone’s dignity can refer to acts that humiliate and/or diminiish self-worth of a person or a group.


What is “catcalling”?
“Catcalling” is a term used to describe acts of making harassing and often sexually suggestive, threatening, or derisive comments at someone publicly. This behaviour is a form of sexual harassment, and is one of the many behaviours we are trying to tackle.

The term “catcalling” can be used to trivialise and minimise these types of behaviours by trying to make them seem less serious than they are. But our campaign sends a clear message that this type of sexual harassment is taken seriously and is not tolerated on our services.


Some of these behaviours are sexual assaults, why do the posters call them ‘harassment’?
The type of behaviours that might be considered as sexual harassment cover such a broad range, including verbal abuse, non-verbal activity, physical assault, and behaviours that are perpetrated online. There is no universally agreed term that captures all of these, and terms such as ‘sexual harassment’, ‘unwanted sexual behaviour’, ‘sexual violence’ and ‘sexual assault’ are often used interchangeably.

We want a consistent message that lets everyone know that none of this behaviour is acceptable. We know from our research that it’s common for people to think that what they have seen or experienced isn’t ‘serious enough’ to warrant them seeking help or reporting, so we want to reassure people that this is not the case. If it’s made you feel uncomfortable, then we will take it seriously.


Is this campaign just aimed at women?

No. We know from our own research and insights from the charities and advisors that we work with that sexual harassment in public spaces disproportionately affects women and is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men. However, we recognise that anyone can experience this behaviour, and our campaign applies to all rail users and members of staff.


I’m worried about my own behaviour, or the behaviour of someone I know, what can I do?
There is no excuse for sexual harassment. This behaviour is being actively policed on the railway and is not tolerated.

If you, or someone you know behaves in this way, there could be serious consequences, including:

  • being removed from our services
  • prosecution
  • fines
  • custodial sentences
  • becoming a Registered Sex Offender
  • the application of restrictions imposed through Sexual Harm Prevention Orders and/or Sexual Risk Orders

This behaviour is unacceptable, harmful, and needs to stop. Sexual harassment is a choice, and you can decide to stop harming others. If you or someone you know wants help to stop, contact StopSO.

Reporting information

Will police take this seriously?

Sexual harassment of any kind is totally unacceptable and harms our society. Nothing is more important than the safety and freedom of our passengers and staff. BTP will investigate every report and will provide you with the help and support you need.


Are all these behaviours a crime?

We don’t want you to have to figure out if what you have seen or experienced is a crime or not. If something has made you feel uncomfortable, then it is not okay. If you report it, BTP will investigate this for you.

There is currently no specific law to tackle sexual harassment in public spaces, however there is a range of existing legislation that can be used by police when dealing with these behaviours, including:

  • Sexual Offences Act 2003/Sexual Offences Act (Scotland) 2009
  • Outraging Public Decency (Common Law)
  • Malicious Communications Act 1988
  • Public Order Act 1986
  • Criminal Justice and Licensing Act 2010
  • Protection of Harassment Act 1997
  • Protection of Freedoms Act 2012
  • Stalking Protection Act 2019
  • Railway Bylaws

It’s also important to remember that sometimes, it’s not just about whether the behaviour itself is a crime or not. The person who is acting this way may be known to police and may have already behaved in this way before and have restrictions applied to their use of the railway.

For example, someone who is subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order will have restrictions applied to what they can or cannot do and breaching these is a crime. These restrictions aren’t the same for everyone, as they are made based on the nature of that person’s previous offending behaviour, but they can include things such as:

  • Not being allowed to approach and/or sit next to a lone woman or man (depending on their previous offending profile) on a train who is not known to them.
  • Not being allowed to travel on the train at certain times of the day (for instance, if they are known for offending at night, they may not be allowed to travel on trains between 9pm and 7am).


Why don’t people who are experiencing it speak up at the time when it’s happening?

There is no ‘right’ way to respond to sexual harassment. Our research tells us that people, particularly women and younger rail users, are often concerned that the behaviour might escalate if they say something. Sexual harassment can be extremely frightening, and sometimes our bodies may respond automatically to threatening situations in some of the following ways:

  • Fight: physically struggling or pushing someone away, or verbally reprimanding the person.
  • Flight: moving or running away from the perpetrator/situation.
  • Friend: ‘befriending’ the person who is posing the threat e.g. placating them, ‘playing along’.
  • Freeze/Flop: being physically unable to move or say anything either due to muscles tensing or loosening.

Those who choose to sexually harass others can also do it in ways that make it hard to challenge someone at the time. For example, they may hide what they are doing or do it in an ambiguous way meaning that if they are challenged, they can make the person targeted feel like they are in the wrong. It can also take time to come to terms with what has happened. It’s never too late to speak up, but we would always encourage people to report as soon as they feel able to so that BTP can secure any time-sensitive evidence, such as CCTV.


How does reporting help?

Each report received provides valuable information which can be used to build a picture of an offender and take action. People who behave in this way often do it repeatedly, so reports can allow BTP to notice patterns in offending behaviour.

Behaviours of this nature are, sadly too common an experience for many, but research tells us that only 4% of people report sexual harassment on the railway to police. Reporting data is one of the things BTP use to inform their activity, including where and when they deploy their officers across the network. The more they know about when and where this is happening, the better equipped they are to prevent and respond to it.


I want to report what’s happened, but I don’t really have a lot of information. Can I still report it?

You can report any information you have on this type of behaviour on the railway

Even if you only have some of the following information, it could fill in a missing piece of the puzzle, and help to paint a wider picture of the perpetrator’s behaviour.

Useful information to share in a report includes:

  • What happened: what train were you on, can you describe what the offender looked like (their appearance, clothing etc.), similarly describe what you looked like (appearance/clothing etc.) as this can make it easier for police to find you/the offender when they look through the CCTV footage.
  • Where did it happen: which station/stop were you at/near, which direction were you travelling in, which station did the offender board/alight the service at?
  • When did it happen: What time did you board the train? If you saw the offender get on or off, what time was this? What time did the incident occur?


What’s the difference between reporting to BTP and reporting to the line powered by Crimestoppers?

BTP are the police force who operate on Britain’s railways and have resources to respond to and investigate incidents. If you need immediate assistance, or would like to formally report any form of sexual harassment on the railway, then you should report this to BTP.

We have introduced the bespoke line (powered by Crimestoppers), for people who have information about someone who has sexually harassed someone on the railway, but doesn’t feel comfortable or able to go directly to police. There is currently no option to report information to BTP anonymously, and so we wanted to make sure that people who have information about someone who is sexually harassing others on the railway still have the opportunity to share. CrimeStoppers is an independent charity that gives people the power to speak up and stop crime, 100% anonymously. By phone or online, 24/7, 365 days a year. No police contact. No witness statements. No courts. Every year information given to Crimestoppers helps to stop thousands of crimes. You’ll stay 100% anonymous. Always


If I report to BTP, do I have to give a statement or go to court?

No, if you feel able to support a prosecution then you may be asked to. But even if you don’t want to do this, it’s still worth making a report as this could provide BTP with important intelligence to help them identify patterns of behaviour.


Will anything even happen to the person if I report it?

There are several things that could happen when you make a report depending on when and what is reported. For example, BTP’s control room can dispatch officers to a location if required, or they could put you in touch with an officer so that you may speak to someone at a more convenient time.

BTP have successfully convicted people before for these types of offences, including the below example:


Do police always need multiple reports of this behaviour to catch an offender?

No, each report is taken extremely seriously, and for many forms of sexual harassment one single report can be enough to catch an offender.

There are some examples where police would need to evidence a course of conduct (for example in stalking cases), but you can still report any thing that makes you feel uncomfortable.


What happens next when a report is made to British Transport Police?

1. Send a text to 61016

  • e.g. Groped by slim-build, tall white man wearing a red tie…
  • Where? E.g. …on-board train from Plainfields to Berryford
  • When? E.g. …on Monday 19 February at 8:45 am. Include any details you feel would assist in identifying the individual.
  • Don’t worry if you are not able to provide these specific details; any information you are able to provide can help to build a picture of an offender when these reports are put together.
  • *Your mobile service provider may issue a small charge

2. Text received by our First Contact Centre

  • The Contact Handler will create an incident log with all of the information contained within the text and forward it to their Force Control Room for an initial police response.

3. Text back to confirm that your message was received

  • If you are reporting a live, ongoing incident you will be given a log number and told that British Transport Police will call you on your mobile number shortly.
  • If you cannot take that call, please let them know. You could also be asked specific questions to help with the initial police response. If it is safe for you to do so, they may ask you to send an image or video of the person you are contacting them about - to - along with the log number to help them link the image/ video to the text log. If you are at a railway station or on the train and you see British Transport Police officers, you may be asked to make yourself known to them – but only if you feel safe and comfortable to do so - as this will help their initial investigation. If you are telling them about something which is not happening right now, you will be given a log number and told that they will call you shortly. If you cannot take the call, please let them know.

4. Phone call back to gather further information

5. Giving a statement

  • After you’ve made a report, they may ask you to make a formal statement if you wish to make one, but you don’t have to. You don’t have to go to a police station - they can visit you where you feel most comfortable. They won’t tell your parents/partner, but you might choose to. However, if you’re under 18, you’ll need a guardian with you when you make your statement. If you don’t want to make a statement you don’t have to but giving one can help British Transport Police identify and catch offenders and prevent others from experiencing sexual harassment .

6. If the offender is caught

  • If British Transport Police find and arrest the offender, a further investigation process will occur that they may ask you to assist them with and a decision will be made about whether the person should be charged. If they are, they will have to appear in court

7. Going to court

  • British Transport Police will support you through any subsequent prosecution, should that result in a court case or otherwise. If the offender is caught and pleads not guilty, there will be a hearing. British Transport Police will support you through the criminal justice process

Further information on making a report visit BTP’s Sexual Harassment page.

Rail industry response to sexual harassment

What else is the rail industry doing about sexual harassment?

The Rail Delivery Group have been working with a range of organisations on this issue since 2019, including the companies that run Britain’s railway, Transport for London, criminal justice partners, and a range of academics and specialist support services to steer and deliver a national strategy that seeks to end this behaviour on our network, full stop. See our home page for some of the organisations who advise and support us.

This collaborative approach has informed our strategy, making us determined to create an environment where the burden of dealing with these incidents is not borne by the people who experience sexual harassment.

As well as launching this communications campaign, we are also:

  • Working with criminal justice partners to make sure people who behave in this way are being managed effectively.
  • Building a library of sexual harassment training and awareness materials for rail employees at all levels to ensure they are informed and empowered to proactively prevent and respond effectively to all forms of sexual harassment.
  • Investing in research and evaluation on ‘what works’ to prevent and respond effectively to sexual harassment on the railway so that learning and good practice can be shared across all operators. 

Our policing partners BTP are also undertaking a raft of measures to support the industry in stopping sexual harassment, including:

  • Daily activity and enhanced patrols conducted by specially trained plain clothes and uniformed officers at stations and on trains across England, Scotland and Wales.
  • Increasing the number of officers who are specifically trained to investigate sexual offences.
  • Public engagement stands at key transport hubs across the country.


Why don’t you have ‘women-only’ carriages?

We want everyone to be free to travel where and when we like without feeling unsafe, violated, or intimidated. We don't believe it is right to make women limit their freedom in order to be safe on our network. We take a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment across all our carriages, trains, and stations, all the time