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A safe place for women?

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A new scheme in London is tackling unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport.

Armed with 120 plain-clothes officers patrolling London's various modes of transport from 7am to 11pm, Project Guardian has led to the arrests of 15 people over the last two weeks alone.

The new zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment came about after a survey found that around 15 percent of women and girls have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour on London's trains, tubes and buses, but about 90 percent of victims did not report it to police.

In a bid to encourage people to share and report any incidents, British Transport Police recently collaborated with Everyday Sexism on Twitter chats that saw victims use the hashtag #ProjGuardian to tell the stories of what had happened to them.

TfL says that between 1 April and 31 August there was a 32 percent increase in the detection of sexual offences, and since the launch of Project Guardian in July, a 20 per cent increase in the reporting of sexual offences, compared to the same period last year.

Superintendent Nicki Watson, of British Transport Police, said: “Despite these good results we must not become complacent and will be working hard to further tackle inappropriate sexual behaviour on London’s transport network.

“We want victims to know that all reports are taken seriously and we’ll do everything we can to bring offenders to justice. If someone has made you feel uncomfortable on your tube, rail or bus journey – however minor it may seem to you – reporting it to police can help us target the perpetrator and prevent it happening to another passenger.”

Laura Bates, of Everyday Sexism told Stylist she is thrilled that Project Guardian has made such a huge impact, and says the recent arrests and increase in reports of offensive behaviour suggests the scheme is working.

"For too long, being harassed, groped and even assaulted on public transport has been so common that for many commuters who get in touch with the Everyday Sexism Project, it is described as 'the norm'.

I've spoken to 14 and 15-year-old girls who have told me that it is a routine part of their journey to school to be groped or harassed by men, even whilst in their school uniforms

"I've spoken to 14 and 15-year-old girls who have told me that it is a routine part of their journey to school to be groped or harassed by men, even whilst in their school uniforms. They shouldn't be growing up accepting this just because it's the way things are, so I'm so grateful to the British Transport Police for taking the lead on this initiative to raise public awareness about the problem and make victims aware that they can come forward, and these incidents will be taken seriously."

As part of the work undertaken by Project Guardian, a 62-year-old man was last week banned from the Tube for performing indecent acts on the network.

To report an incident of a sexual nature to British Transport Police call 0800 40 50 40 or text 61016 with details of what happened.

Words: Anna Pollitt. Images: Rex Features

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