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Sexual harassment on transit: a global, comparative examination

Abstract

This article examines the incidence of an omnipresent but underreported crime in transit environments: sexual harassment. More specifically, it presents the findings of a global comparative study that surveyed 11,710 college students from 18 cities in six different continents, to inquire about their victimization experiences with verbal, physical, and non-verbal/non-physical sexual harassment in transit environments. The study finds that sexual harassment is a common occurrence in all cities but how, where, and to what extent it happens is quite specific to the particular socio-spatial contexts. Certain individual characteristics of students and environmental characteristics of the transit setting can increase the risk of harassment. Different types of sexual harassment are more likely to happen in certain transit settings than others. While female students are disproportionately affected, some male students also report experiences of victimization. The study concludes with a discussion of multi-pronged responses to harassment.

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Source: Authors’ survey

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Notes

  1. This is an email user list of researchers around the world who study transit crime. See: https://maillist.sys.kth.se/mailman/listinfo/abe.kth.se_tcr-network.

  2. These behaviors were as follows: Verbal Harassment: sexual comments (about body, clothing); kissing sounds; sexual names such as being called ‘babe,’ ‘honey,’ ‘sweetheart; being asked for sex; sexual teasing; being asked questions of sexual nature; whistling; obscene/abusive language. Physical Harassment: unwanted kissing; having one’s hair pulled/touched; being groped/touched inappropriately. Non-Verbal/Non-Physical Harassment: unwanted sexual looks/gestures; masturbation in public; being shown pornographic images; indecent exposure; stalking.

  3. This attitude was also confirmed by a subsequent survey question that asked students who had not reported a harassment incident why they had failed to do so. Some respondents said that they did not consider this incident as harassment and worth reporting.

  4. We consider Guangzhou as a city of the Global North based on the economic prowess of China and recent arguments that China belongs to the Global North (see for example Polk 2018).

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Correspondence to Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris.

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Loukaitou-Sideris, A., Ceccato, V. Sexual harassment on transit: a global, comparative examination. Secur J 35, 175–204 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41284-020-00271-1

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Keywords

  • Sexual harassment
  • Transit
  • College students