Photograph: Corbis What I thought were my shopping bags pressing against me was in fact someones hand
I was on the bus on my way home after shopping. It was mid-afternoon and the bus was relatively empty so I went upstairs and sat down not paying any attention to anyone else.
I placed my shopping bags on the seat next to me near the window and rested my left arm over the bags. As the journey progressed I felt a light, but firm pressing against my left breast. I thought it was my shopping bags pressing against me and took no further notice. But as the journey continued, the pressure against my breast continued to get more intense.
I thought this doesnt feel right, so I sat really still; not moving and with all my focus on the pressing against my breast. Until I felt a full tender squeeze of my breast. I turned around – so shocked, embarrassed and humiliated into silence.
Before I could say anything – the middle age man was already half way down the stairs heading for the doors. He had been groping my breast by reaching and sliding his hand through the gap between the seats on the left, next to the window.
What I thought where my shopping bags pressing against me was in fact a middle age mans hand.
I had only one stop left of a 30 minute journey.
Anonymous, South London
It was the first time a man thought he had the right to touch my body without permission
I was fifteen or sixteen, in my final year of school and living in a very rural area. I would get the train to school everyday, often on my own. Usually the evening train I was catching would be a train packed with commuters from Manchester, also on their way home. Occasionally it would be so full that people wouldnt even be able to get on a couple of stops after mine.
Because of the lack of carriages I would often end up standing in the aisles or cramped in doorways. It was on one of those occasions I thought somebodys bag was brushing against my bum, so shifted my body to a different angle. It happened again, only this time, it felt less like a bag and more like caressing.
I was young and innocent and turned around expecting to see a lots of shopping bags. Instead, I saw the single hand of a man standing behind me. I felt shocked and confused and stood there for a moment telling myself hed probably done it by accident. We were packed like sardines and his whole body was millimeters from mine when it happened a third time.
I immediately pushed my way through several people and stood on the opposite side of the door way and glared at him. He looked ever so slightly uncomfortable, but mainly sad and disappointed.
I saw him most days, even when I started commuting on the same train into college. Sometimes I still see him now. I look back, now an avid feminist and wish I hadnt given him that tiny benefit of the doubt. I wish I had said loudly, so the packed train could hear, Can you stop touching my bum? before Id moved away.
Ive been groped and harassed and had mens hands go inside my underwear in crowded clubs, swimming pools, concerts since and now I always make a point of acting on it. This incident still feels different I was a school child, I was on public transport surrounded by people and it was the first time a man thought he had the right to touch my body without permission.
Anonymous, Derbyshire I felt sick, angry and guilty that I hadnt reacted in the right way
Early last year, I was on my way to meet a friend after work on the Cologne metro, when I spotted a man masturbating. He was stood behind a young woman, who had no idea what was going on. None of the other passengers did either, but because he was stood diagonally to me, I could clearly see what he was doing.
I could feel my heart thudding and blood rushing to my head. I didnt know what to do. A million scenarios rushed through my mind. Should I pull the emergency break? Should I call the police? Should I shout out loud and tell the whole train?
Its ridiculous the thoughts that go through your mind at such a time. I couldnt bring myself to do the latter, I think partly from fear nobody would react and partly because Im not used to causing a scene, as stupid as that sounds.
In the end, I did speak up. I told him I could see what he was doing and I warned the girl to step away. I got out my phone and wrote down his description and the time. He got off at the next stop.
I got off the one after that with my hands shaking and tears in my eyes and found a transport worker, who advised me to go to the transport office, but they were absolutely useless. They made me feel worse by saying I shouldve called the police at the time and there was nothing they could do. I left shaking like a leaf and called my boyfriend in tears. I felt like my reaction was silly as I wasnt hurt, or even the victim, but I was just so shocked. I felt sick, angry and guilty that I hadnt reacted in the right way. I decided to go to the police anyway, but they werent able to do anything.
Then, a year later, just the other week who should I spot on the metro? The same man. At first I thought I was imagining it since the first incident I had often thought Id seen him again and it was always my imagination. Then I realised he was wearing the same clothes.
Right before my eyes, he walked in my direction and stood directly in front of me, behind another young woman. I stared at his back incredulous. Could this really be happening again?
Sure enough, he was masturbating behind his open jacket. This time, I felt a surge of anger he was still doing this. I approached him and said loudly and firmly: Hey, I know what youre doing and Im calling the police.
He immediately moved to the next train doorway trying to get away from me but I followed and got out my phone. As soon as the doors opened, he started to run, so I chased him. He ran in a loop and got back on the same train. Unfortunately the doors closed seconds before I could get back on. So, I tried to warn other passengers through the window and then called the police.
They took all my details and a description, and told me they had police checking the next station but that I may be called to make a statement. Last week I went through the whole process again and asked to look through just over a hundred photos of men who have been arrested for similar crimes. Once again, I was unable to identify him. They said they will try and identify him from CCTV, but I dont hold out much hope.
Photograph: Stephen Hird/Reuters I began to get really frightened for my safety
Getting on the last, packed, train home from a concert, I managed to find a seat next to a window and promptly fell into a light sleep. I was aware of the train making stops and of people getting on and off. As usual, I kept my bag on my lap, wrapping its handle around my wrist to make it harder for anyone to pinch. I was also aware of an older gentleman in a suit, who got on the train and sat next to me, placing his suitcase upright on his lap.
At some point the train lurched, waking me up with a jolt. I realised that there was a hand on my stomach, hidden to other passengers by my bag. I jumped in shock and felt the hand slide away.
I thought I was being robbed, so I checked my bag to make sure all the contents were there, then sat and tried to work out what had just happened. It felt as though a hand had been rubbing my stomach. The only person it could have belonged to was the man next to me, who was staring straight ahead as if nothing had happened. I decided I had imagined it, but sat up straighter and kept an eye on the man out of the corner of my eye.
I watched him, well hidden by his suitcase, as he slowly reached his hand down to his side and gently stroke my thigh with his little finger, then several fingers, then his whole hand.
The first time this happened I made an exaggerated yawning gesture and pushed him away. The second time, I turned to stare at him. The third time, I began to get really frightened for my safety and started to imagine everyone in the packed carriage was aware of what he was doing and were all part of his scheme.
At this point, I turned my full body towards him and, in a voice which was meant to carry but which actually came out as a whisper, said: Could you please stop touching me?
He moved his hand, nodded, and got off the train at the next station.
I cried all the way back to my final destination.
Anonymous, West Sussex His fingers in my hair and his smile haunted me for days
I was on the tram, on my way back to my shared flat, when I started to feel the back of my hair moving. At first I thought it was caused by a breeze or the air conditioning, but then I clearly felt fingers playing with my hair. I turned around and I was faced with a man smiling at me. His smile made my blood run cold.
I did not dare react further as the tram was almost empty – late-night service – and as I had to walk a few minutes to reach my flat once I stepped out.
He stepped out of the tram one stop before I did, but he took time to look at me. His fingers in my hair and his smile haunted me for days – and still do.
Some names have been withheld or changed to protect anonymity. To report anything which makes you feel uncomfortable on transport in the UK, contact the British Transport Police by text on 61016 or call 101.