Meet the women tackling sexual harassment on London’s public transport

Best friends Caitlín Sim and Olivia Wasson, both 25, have launched a new platform where women can report incidents of sexual harassment on London Transport, after they found no systems accurately reported on women’s experiences.

The initiative, Visible Platform, allows women to report all incidents of sexual harassment on the London Underground, Overground and DLR.

The platform tracks all types of incidents from large to small, including those more “minor” experiences and microaggressions that can sometimes be overlooked by the police.

The pair set up the platform at the beginning of 2020 just before the pandemic after Olivia had an experience where she was leered at on the DLR.

Caitlín revealed that a man had been staring at Olivia, licking his lips, and “pretended to take a phone call saying ‘there’s a beautiful woman opposite me””.

She said that her friend had “felt really violated and intruded on, and she felt very angry. She was just so tired of it”.

Caitlín knew exactly what her friend was going through revealing: “I’ve had those experiences as well, where it’s just so annoying.”

She said that Olivia wished there was some way of reporting it other than going to the police, as she didn’t want the man arrested, but she just wanted the experience that women have to endure properly acknowledged.

“We felt none of the systems for reporting adequately captured the range of harassment women experience and that they often dismissed the microaggressions of misogyny women in public life face every day”, Caitlín said.

The pair decided to fill that gap and set up a platform where women can report all their experiences, not just ones they necessarily want to go to court, but ones they don’t want to have to simply forget about.

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Both women have a background in politics and law, and hoped the site’s legal and political potential could “radicalise and change the current system”.

The platform now uses a chatbot to allow women to report their experiences in a quick and easy way. Women can share as much information as they choose and there is no pressure to share any more than they are comfortable with.

The platform has already received hundreds of reports from women, both past and more recent, of which Caitlín said: “We get a whole range.”

They have found a lot of women reporting instances where men directly and intentionally press their erections against them when the tube is busy, or men casually resting their hand on women’s chests.

“Something that is quite unique to the tube is men masturbating in public. That’s something that we’re drawing attention to because obviously that can happen on the street, but if you’re on the street you can get away faster”, Caitlín explained.

She revealed that one in five of the reports on the site have come from young girls who were wearing their school uniforms when they experienced harassment, which often comes in the form of catcalling.

They hope the platform gives women a space to report these issues, and eventually hope to use the data collected to influence change.

“We want to be able to produce a really coherent, strategic report and analysis of this data”, said Caitlín.

While the platform currently only takes reports from London transport incidents, they are in the process of expanding out to other parts of the country.

It is hoped that the data can show where and when these incidents are happening in local areas, and “that councillors and local mayors can see how much sexual harassment takes place on their public transport, and then have a localised response to it”.

“If you know that this is a really dangerous line or women are really vulnerable here, there should be more officers here, there should be better lighting”, Caitlín suggested.

Women can report their own experiences of harassment on London transport on Visible Platform here .

My London – Local News