Rape charity hits out at 'victim blaming' after sex offences on trains double in five years (Sunday Herald, 23rd July)
By Georgia McShane

Rape Crisis Scotland has called for an end to "victim blaming" on the back of this week's report that showed reports of sexual offences on trains have more than doubled in the past five years.

Eileen Maitland, an information and resource worker at the charity, criticised the fact that responsibility for such attacks is often placed at the door of the victims rather than the perpetrators.

"The decision to travel from A to B should not be fraught with anxiety around personal safety or undertaken with a sense of risk, yet this is the reality for many women travelling in this country – every single day," said Maitland, adding however: “No warnings to take care when travelling alone or at night will stop an assault from happening, and they will certainly do nothing to stop the hyper-vigilance which characterises so many women’s journeys, the relief they feel on arrival at the destination – or the responsibility levelled at them for not taking more care, if they do not.”

And while End Violence Against Women Coalition, a leading coalition of women’s specialist services, NGOs and activists, said of the report that the figures do not necessarily demonstrate an increased risk of sexual assault to women, Maitland is not so sure.

“It's impossible to know if the figures revealed by this latest report are the result of an increased willingness among victims to come forward or a rise in the number of incidences of sexual assaults on public transport,” said Maitland.
Raising the worrying and increasingly common issue of the consumption of pornography on public transport, Maitland expressed dismay at the continued objectification of women in British society.

“Messages around the objectification of women, their sexual subjugation and humiliation are among many problematic aspects of mainstream pornography," she said. "For women and children who are also users of public transport to have to sit beside or near someone viewing pornography while they’re travelling is completely unacceptable – the insidious creep of this behaviour in a public space is a worrying development and if we’re serious about public transport being a safe place for everyone, steps must be taken to stop it.”

Maitland adds: “Public transport is exactly that – public. That means that travellers are entitled to the same protections as in other public spaces, including the expectation that they will not be confronted with pornography.”

These concerns about the consumption of pornography on public transport were also shared by Jan Macleod of the Women’s Support Project, a charity that aims to bring awareness to violence against women and children.
When speaking to the Sunday Herald, Macleod said: “We have been contacted by people who have seen men watching porn on public transport or in other public places and who want to know whether this is an offence and what right they have to complain. Unfortunately there is no clear answer to that but it would certainly help if services and organisations had a policy about accessing and viewing pornography."

She added: “Young women commonly report that sexual harassment and assault is an everyday occurrence. Of course without further analysis it is difficult to know whether reports are increasing because of an increase in violence itself, or whether more people are reporting now because they have more faith in the system.”

Macleod said: “The recent media coverage reflects the concerns we hear across Scotland about levels of sexual harassment in public life but unfortunately we lost the funding for our direct support services, as part of the local authority budget cuts.”


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