As much as I talk, write, and think about street harassment, I admit that I can still get stunned into silence by harassers. I really admire all the women and male allies who’ve shared stories on my blog about times they’ve confronted harassers. And I also really admire Lisa Robinson.
Robinson, her husband, and their five-year-old son were on the train, returning home from a day trip to Cardiff (Wales) where they had celebrated the son’s birthday. There were about 30 drunk Cardiff football (soccer) fans on the train with them (when I studied abroad in England, I had that experience in Manchester and did my best to become invisible).
The men were harassing a female passenger on a train platform. When Robinson told them to stop, they began yelling seixst and obscene comments at her.
Robinson pulled the red handle to stop the train. She informed the conductor about the harassment and asked that he call the police. The conductor did nothing and started the train back up.
Already her actions are impressive – standing up for other women, standing up for herself and reporting the harassers. But this is where her actions go above and beyond.
Undeterred by the train conductor’s indifference, Robinson and her family got off the train at their stop and again asked that something be done about the rowdy men. The train conductor refused again.
She decided to do something more. She stood in the tracks! She would not move until the police were called.
Ms Robinson said: “I slithered down off the platform on to the track.
“I wanted to protect both my husband and my child and I wanted this behaviour to stop.
“Some of the fans got off the train and took pictures of me with mobile phones and continued to abuse me.
“This is my community, this is my village. We’re not going to be bullied and certainly for women and families, they should be able to travel on the train in peace and quiet and go about their business without being bullied like that.”
The police were eventually called, and the service was terminated.
Wayne David, Labour MP for Caerphilly, called the “apparent inactivity” of Arriva Trains Wales and British Transport Police “unacceptable” and said he would be in touch with them about the incident.
“No member of the public should be subject to abuse of this kind and it must never happen again,” he added.
British Transport Police said: “BTP officers attended Ystrad Mynach railway station after a report that a woman had been verbally abused by a group of football fans after she challenged their behaviour on board the train.
“BTP does not tolerate anti-social behaviour of any nature on the railway network and will do everything it can to identify offenders and bring them to justice.”
Peter Northcott, head of stations at Arriva Trains Wales, said: “We take all complaints very seriously and I personally contacted Mr and Mrs Robinson on the day of this incident.
“A full investigation is taking place with the British Transport Police.”
It’s sad that the the harassers and the train conductor would not stop or do anything when she asked until she risked her life on the tracks and stopped the train. But she got their attention and got them to do something. And that is how change happens.
Thank you Lisa Robinson!