As many of my fellow Brits will be aware, recently a new advertising campaign aimed at stopping people being sexually assaulted on public transport has been launched. Titled “Report it to Stop it” the initial television and online advertisement was created and implemented by the British Transport Police. Who, according to their website, have seen an increase in crime reports by up to 40% as a result of this campaign. This is a staggeringly high increase and I’m certainly glad that people have been able to come forwards and report crimes as a result of its broadcast.
However, there is also a lot wrong with this ad campaign so far. Admittedly I have only seen one advert, and subsequent additions to the campaign may or may not change my opinion of the whole campaign. I still feel as though the wrongs in this video haven’t really been bought to light, despite the ad being covered by numerous media sources, such as The Independent, The Huffington Post and The Telegraph. So I’m going to cover them below.
As the video begins everything seems normal. A man who is casually looking at the rails turns for a brief moment to look at a woman. A narrator chimes in, implies that being looked at it cause for concern and asks simply, “would you report it?” – My answer is no. Merely being looked at for barely a second is not a case of sexual assault, but it’s phrased that way here. Let me be clear, I think people should absolutely be cautious of people staring at them, and take action move away from them, I don’t however think that it’s a crime to look at other people on public transport. Other people are like 90% of the entertainment when your train is on it’s fourth delay before its imminent cancellation.
Play on! The VT continues to roll, the woman stands on the train and the man ends up behind her. At which point the narrator points out that she can feel his breath and asks again, quite simply, “would you report it?” – Once again, my answer is no. Trains the UK are infamously bad, and often over crowded. There have been numerous occasions where I’ve been relegated to sitting in the baggage storage area, and even once in the front cart where they keep people’s bicycles, exciting. Police have even been called to aid in the unpacking of a train that was just far too full of humans to be real. So yes, you may or may not be breathed on, or accidentally touched by other people on public transport in the UK, no it’s not always something to report. In the BTP’s campaign, there is nothing at this point which suggest a nefarious motive from our friend in grey.
So the video rolls on once more. “Is that his bag? He’s not carrying one… one second… two seconds… would you report it?”- And here we finally arrive at our destination, the main point of why I dislike this campaign so far. I wouldn’t just report it, I would turn straight around and tell that guy to where to stick his hand, and it wouldn’t be anywhere near my ass. Hailed for empowering women to take a stance against sexual assault on public transport, the video goes on to not show a woman taking a stance against sexual assault on public transport. It instead watches her go through it, over and over and over again, all while asking her to just wait until its over and then go get help.
Initially, I can’t seem to shake the feeling that this advert is somewhat telling women they’re weak, and that if a man is groping them, they have no choice but to wait until they can find another man, or collection of men. In this case, The British Transport Police, before they can have any sense of closure from being assaulted. The grim truth of being a woman, in the eyes of the BTP, is that you are incapable of looking after yourself.
In crowded public transport, you are almost guaranteed to have people stand up with you, not just for you. Why not showcase the woman taking a stand for herself first and foremost? The message would be a lot clearer, you don’t have to take sexual assault, as soon as you are made to feel uncomfortable by someone touching you, or loitering in your personal space, speak up. Don’t just let them continue until you can get off at the next stop to tell someone about it. At no point in the entire video does the woman being subjected to sexual assault do anything to stop it. She just takes it, and is asked if she wants to report it yet.
For an advert that claims to want to prevent sexual assaults from happening, it sure does seem to imply that they’re going to happen and you cannot do anything about it until its over. This is not a preventative measure, this is damage control. The British Transport Police really missed the point on this one in my opinion, and in future, I’d personally like to see more campaigns that don’t encourage women to be a victim, and instead encourage them to fight back against sexual assault.