The powerful reason why women in Australia are sharing their sexual assault stories on Twitter

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Susan Devaney
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Australian women are tweeting about all the times they’ve been sexually assaulted on public transport after one writer called it “straight up fantasy”. 

Ever since the launch of the #MeToo movement last year, people have been opening up about sexual assault and harassment like never before. So, when one writer recently challenged the notion that men grope women on public transport, many were quick to come forward and prove them wrong.

The comments came after an opinion piece, published in this week’s The Sydney Morning Herald, detailed one woman’s experiences of being sexually assaulted on public transport in Sydney, inspiring her to design the the Free To Be Sydney city safety map.

“Every time I get onto a crowded train I stand with my back to the wall because this is the best way that I have found to ward off men who grope,” said Alice Rummery in the piece. 

However, Claire Lehmann - the founder and editor of QuilletteM - was quick to criticise the article on Twitter, insisting that the claims within it were “straight-up fantasy”.

“Men don’t grope on Australian trains,” she said.

Lehmann’s comments soon triggered a social media movement, with many women coming forward to share their own stories of being groped on public transport.

“All of us who have experienced it must be imagining it then?” wrote one.

“What about the time a guy on the train just started masturbating in a carriage occupied by just myself and a school girl? Did I imagine that too?”

Then you use the phrase “another user wrote” a few times - maybe we could restructure one?

“So the man who trapped me between two carriages and threatened me with a razor blade while he groped me wasn’t real? Brilliant. I’ll just let that trauma fall out of my head now then,” another user wrote.

One woman tweeted: “When I was 17 a man sat opposite me on the train. At the next station he stood, hoisted his bag over his shoulder, leaned down, and grabbed one of my breasts. He winked at me before bolting through the closing doors. I cried the rest of the journey. But sure, fantasy.”

“My sister witnessed a man put his hand up the back of a woman’s dress during peak hour on an entirely crowded train. I had a man masturbating in the cluster of seats beside me while watching me. He followed me when I moved. I have plenty more stories. Glad it hasn’t happened to you,” another user wrote.

Another argued: “Well, no.

“It has happened to me, it has happened to my sister, it has happened to several women of my acquaintance.

“Bully for you that you that this hasn’t been YOUR experience, but please don’t disrespect the experience of others in this manner.”

“Considering I’ve been sexually assaulted whilst pushed up against a wall, yes men do grope, and when I told this man to stop VERY clearly and loudly, nobody on the carriage did anything,” another person posted.

In the UK, the number of reported sexual offences on trains has more than doubled in the last five years.

Thanks to a freedom of information request by BBC Radio Five Live, statistics for 2016-17 have been released by British Transport Police (BTP), revealing 1,448 offences against women and girls aged 13 and over were reported. In 2012-13, 650 were reported.

Thankfully, the increase could because women are now coming forward to report the crimes.

If you do become a victim of crime it is important that you ask for help and report it. You can call the British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40 or text 61016. In an emergency, dial 999.

Images: Unsplash