by Naz Shah, Member of Parliament for Bradford West
Earlier this week I reported an incident in which I witnessed a man behaving indecently on a bus outside Whitehall. The truth is, he was disgracefully masturbating on a bus.
It’s not something that I would have considered sharing widely, but after learning about the scale of the problem, I’ve decided to speak out.
When I read that over 90% of unwanted behaviour or sexual assaults on public transport go unreported, I tweeted about it and shared the numbers for reporting such crime and a video campaign to highlight the issue.
Since tweeting about it, other women have mentioned how they have also had similar experiences.
I’ve had a massive wave of support but with that, albeit very few, came some uncomfortable silences in and amongst conversations wrapped delicately and softly in “only trying to protect you”…..” perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to talk about it publicly”……”not because your wrong but because”, blah blah blah and one can imagine the rest.
Well I did and in doing so it attracted many ‘opinions’ but one in particular from a “bloke” was this comment: “my brother why would anyone want to broadcast filth like this? She’s got no shame!!!”
So, I decided to write this open letter in keeping with my pure intentions of highlighting this issue because this kind of mindset has to be challenged and we must be braver in calling out those committing such indecent acts and not victim shaming.
I read your opinion with interest and huge dismay about me having no “shame” about sharing this “filth”, so now let me respond by saying this;
It is this very outdated, patriarchal mindset and opinion of yours which no doubt contributes to the statistic of 90% unreported crimes of this nature.
Instead of suggesting that I had no shame for sharing this filth perhaps you could’ve extended that to the man who was committing the filthy act but no, that wouldn’t fit in with your warped world view of not talking about issues of a sexual nature. Let alone talk about masturbation on public transport.
Let me enlighten you. It happens. And the fact is that the majority of victims are women.
I did feel shame, but not the kind of shame you’re talking about.
It is a shame that less than 10% of these crimes are reported.
It is a shame that victims do not have the confidence to come forward.
It is a shame that in the year 2019 this kind of behaviour on public transport hasn’t been wiped out.
It is a shame that women can’t go about their daily lives without having to experience unwanted indecent behaviour and in many cases sexual assaults.
It is a shame that some men like you, (luckily though fewer of you these days), do not speak up and support those who are highlighting this but are okay to raise concerns about it being “broadcasted”!
The shame is that I have to outline the fact that the real shame should be felt by people who hold views like yours and the perpetrators of this behaviour.
Gone are the days where the shame is that of the victim. Gone are the days where people can brush things like this under the carpet because it’s not “appropriate” and gone are the days where we can let this go and not challenge it.
So, there you have it. NO, I have no shame in broadcasting this filth because this filth needs calling out.
And to those that have ever experienced unwanted sexual behaviour or sexual assault whether on public transport or anywhere in any setting at any time. Don’t be afraid, please report the incident as soon as possible.
Challenge it safely where possible, even if you see it happening to others.
Do not let outdated attitudes like the one above put you off for making the world a better place.