“There has to be a mind-set change” to tackle the harassment and intimidation of women on public transport, according to the Dublin Rape Crisis Network.
A report from Transport Infrastructure Ireland has found that more than half of Irish women do not use public transport at night because they feel unsafe.
The ‘Travelling in a Woman’s Shoes’ report also found that 34% of women have, on occasion, decided not to go out at all because they did not feel safe.
It notes that women and men “equally likely to experience violence” however, “sexual harassment and assault are predominantly experienced by women, especially in Dublin.”
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre CEO Noeline Blackwell said there has to be a mindset change to get to the root of the problem.
“Undoubtedly, some of the harassment is simply done because people do things when they have drink taken that maybe they wouldn’t do otherwise,” she said.
“It seems to somebody to be funny, smart or blokeish to harass somebody sitting on their own – asking them for a kiss or sitting in beside them when there are other seats, instead of recognising that a man may very well know that he does not intend any harm out of that but the woman approached does not know that because there is an extra risk for that woman.
“So there needs to be a mindset change to recognise that actually women are more vulnerable simply because they are women.
“Everyone has some vulnerability but women have this extra layer. That men have grown up with a sense of kind of being confident in a space where women have not been confident and for everybody to recognise that behaviour must be respectful.”
She noted that everyone has to take some form of precaution on public transport – but said it would “make a massive difference if people didn’t just offer gratuitous harassment” to women.
“It is absolutely recognised that there are risks for everybody but people need to stop and listen to what women are saying,” she said.
“It is the case that women are taught or brought up to understand that they have to take additional precautions to their brothers or to their male friends.
“They know it because there is evidence all over the world. All of the studies show that women are at more risk because they are women. So, by reducing that risk, we make the whole world safer for everyone.”
She said it is essential that we recognise the risks women face and continue highlighting them in the hope that it can bring about change.
“Your daughter is subject to the same risk as your sons on public transport and more,” she said. “It is just that ‘and more’ bit we could get rid of.
“If you don’t talk about that layer of risk – and even women don’t have to talk about it amongst themselves because they know it exists – but if you don’t know it is there you don’t understand that extra layer.
“So, this is a time really for those who don’t have that extra layer to be curious and try and adjust a bit the way the world works in order to reduce that level of harassment.
“The truth is women use public transport more than men as well all around the world. They have to depend on it and therefore it is not only just that they are at risk all the time, it actually limits their inclusion in society.”