2 Mar 2020
Women in Transport
Worldwide, women experience harassment in various forms on public transport. During Awareness Week from 2nd to 8th of March 2020, we link harassment experiences with possible approaches on how to foster security and comfort for all when using public transport. Share your story via email@example.com or on your own social media using the hashtag #notmymobility!
We look forward to raising awareness together with you of what is #notmymobility and to showcase how we can transform transport for the better!
About a year ago, in a dark night, I walked home through my neighbourhood in Frankfurt. In a shopping street I saw a man who sits there often to ask for money. This night, he was obviously drunk. As I have seen him several times before, I waved to him as I walked past and continued walking home. A few hundred metres in front of my house I noticed that he was following me. At this point he must have been following me for about ten minutes. I changed sides of the street. He changed sides as well. I started speeding up. So did he. When I started running, he ran. As soon as I reached my house, I rushed in and closed the entrance door behind me. The drunk man started to knock on the glass door from outside and shouted something incomprehensible to me. As I live on the ground floor, my flatmate heard the noises and opened our apartment door. Angrily, he shouted at the drunk man and told him to leave. Only then did the man leave. Since then, I no longer greet the man when I see him.
I was alone on my way home in Berlin at the train station. Three drunk men in their mid-twenties sat down right next to me on a bench. I got up and stood further away. From the bench they were constantly shouting offensive things at me, so that a few minutes of waiting became really long, because I was alone with them. I got into the wagon, which was already well filled - and they went into another one.
This happened while I was visiting Cologne, Germany with two of my girlfriends. One evening, we went to a concert and afterwards took the bus to the place we were staying at during our stay. While we were sitting on the bus waiting for it to leave, a man appeared in front of the window and smiled at us. He seemed very drunk as he was swaying from left to right. Suddenly, we noticed that he had put his hand in his pants and had started to masturbate while looking at us. All three of us were too shocked to react and waited for the bus to leave to release us from this revolting situation.
When I got on the subway in the early evening after work last summer, I never thought that two hours later I would have to report an unknown man to the police. Shortly after I got on the subway, a man sat down diagonally across from me. The subway was crowded, it was rush hour traffic. I listened to music on my headphones and did not really notice the man. He seemed like a regular guy in his thirties. Suddenly, he offered me some of his body lotion and I politely declined with a gesture. When I noticed that he was still offering me something – he was holding it right in front of me - I took off my headphones to be able to hear him. He told me that I needed lotion, I kindly answered him that I did not want any. At that moment it has already happened. He held the tube over my legs and squeezed it, thus emptying most of the body lotion over my naked legs (I wore a short summer dress). I immediately got loud and asked him what this was all about and asked the numerous people around me if they could help me. Nobody reacted, everyone just stared at me. In this moment he already got up and sprayed more body lotion in my face and was screaming something against me I cannot remember. I had to ask for help several times until someone at least handed me something to wipe the lotion off my legs. Most of the people in the subway, however, just kept staring at me. At that moment I felt so humiliated and left alone. I don't know what felt worse, the fact that an unknown man attacked me physically or the fact that everyone in the crowded subway just stared at me without helping. Because I felt so helpless, I got off at the next station, although I had to go on. The man drove on as well as all witnesses. Then I got on the next subway in a complete state of disorder. Again, nobody asked me if everything was alright. To make matters worse, I smelled this lotion everywhere. The fragrant smell of the body lotion was repulsive for me at that moment. Luckily, I could call friends of mine for help and they supported me afterwards to go to the police. I filed an assault charge against unknown, which was dropped a few months later because the man could not be found. Since then, riding the subway has changed for me. You cannot tell when a person is up to something malicious. And even in a crowded subway, you may not be helped by anyone.
One day I took a taxi. The driver watched videos on his mobile phone while driving and I told him several times to watch out because I was afraid that something might happen. He mumbled something to himself, but I did not understand him. Then he showed me a porn video on his mobile phone. We were almost at my destination, otherwise I would have gotten off. As I got out of the taxi, he grabbed his crotch.
I was born and raised in Mexico City, I lived there for 26 years and while trying to remember how many times I have been harassed on public transport I realized that there were not that many. Of course I was victim of some whistling, some “mamacitas” and some lascivious looks, but nothing “extreme”.I also realized that it was mainly because I’ve been very careful not to travel alone at night. I never took a taxi without sending the license plate’s photo to my mom and calling her to let her know I was already on the taxi, mostly to let the taxi driver know that my family was waiting for me and would call the police if anything happened to me.That’s when it shocked me! Didn’t I suffer anything “extreme”? What is more extreme than normalizing the situation and adjusting my behavior, my clothes, in fact, my life to try to avoid being harassed?I could write a book with all the rules I needed to learn in order not to be harassed. Later in life I understood that it wasn’t my fault if something happened to me, but that unfortunately, it wasn’t “smart” not to take my precautions to reduce the chances. Because although it shouldn’t be us women the ones who should change, the reality is that so far, girls and women not only in “developing” but also in “developed” countries, are forced to change their behavior, their clothes, their mobility patterns, to reduce their chances of being harassed.