September 17 2021

Zoe Harris is the Communications Officer from the Safer Travel Partnership at West Midlands Police, and Zoe writes about what is being done to make sure women can make their journeys by bus with confidence.

Police forces nationally are developing their strategies to tackle violence and abuse against women and girls, and West Midlands Police are focussing on making their region a place where women feel safe and free of fear.

As a woman, a frequent public transport user of many years, a victim of unwanted sexual behaviour and now working in a pioneering team dedicated to keeping public transport safe in the West Midlands, it’s safe to say women’s safety on transport is a topic I am especially passionate about.

The West Midlands Safer Travel Partnership are working to launch a campaign, Project Empower, which offers victims a discreet and simple method of reporting. For many other crime types, reporting to police is often an immediate reaction. Many wouldn’t hesitate to report their car stolen or their house burgled, so why should reporting sexual harassment be any different?

We want it to be straightforward and simple to report, and we want to provide confidence and reassurance that reports will be taken seriously. Every report helps us to better understand what’s happening on our public transport network.

We all have a part to play in this hugely important piece of work, and by continuing to talk openly and honestly about women’s safety, we can continue to raise awareness and reinforce that there’s only one person to blame for unwanted sexual behaviour: the perpetrator.

So many passenger journeys happen every day without incident. However part of my work in developing Project Empower includes talking to students and young people about my own experience of unwanted sexual behaviour when I was travelling home. This incident has not only ignited my passion for improving women’s safety, it resulted in the conviction of an offender. I am encouraging others to do the same and report.

Unwanted sexual behaviour is not just part of everyday life, something we just have to accept is ‘how it is’. Something that for some, may stop them using public transport altogether. Let’s continue the discussion, continue to challenge and commit to making a difference.