News Walthamstow

Woman who was harassed on Victoria Line calls for staffed platforms

Jaya Pathak said she was alarmed to see unmanned platforms at Blackhorse Road and Walthamstow Central after being sexually harassed on the tube last Friday

By Marco Marcelline

Inset: Jaya Pathak, and a Victoria Line platform at Walthamstow Central Station

A woman who was sexually harassed by a man on the Victoria Line has urged Transport for London (TfL) to routinely staff platforms at Blackhorse Road and Walthamstow Central Stations.

Jaya Pathak, 26, was travelling to Walthamstow at 7pm on Friday 5th April when a man sitting next to her pretended to fall asleep on her shoulder.

Jaya says he placed his head on her shoulder three times. She initially thought he was genuinely asleep and went to nudge him but became alarmed when she noticed his eyes were open. When Jaya felt his head on her shoulder a third time she pushed her body as “far away as she could” from him. 

She told the Echo that he then proceeded to turn his head and stare at her for minutes at a time. Worried that he could see her sending someone the location of the Walthamstow event she was going to, she hid her phone screen and stopped texting.

Jaya says her tube carriage, which was packed when she got on, started to empty out at Tottenham Hale, and with two stops left to Walthamstow Central she became increasingly anxious that he would get off at the same station as her. 

Recalling her fear during the situation, Jaya said: “I was thinking, ‘I don’t come to Walthamstow often and I don’t know anyone there that could help me if something happens.'”

He eventually got off the train at Blackhorse Road at 7.25pm, but instead of continuing to the station exit, he stood outside the closed carriage doors and stared [Jaya] down”.

At this point, a female passenger alerted Jaya to the man, who was mouthing and gesturing at her to leave the tube while it was held up at the station. Jaya says the woman asked her if she knew him, and when she replied “no”, the woman stayed with her for support. 

Despite the harassment being clear to bystanders, the man continued to stare at Jaya while standing on the platform. Then, as the tube started to pull away from the station, he followed it in pursuit of her.

A Victoria Line tube carriage, Credit: Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

Jaya described the man as white, six-foot tall, with a “broad-build”, short dark hair, dressed in all black and sporting a rucksack.

She noted that there was no staff presence on the platform at the time which was “scary”. When she got off at Walthamstow Central, she says she didn’t see a TfL staff member until she got to the exit barriers in the ticket hall.

The lack of staff presence at Blackhorse Road and Walthamstow Central platforms was surprising, given they are “busy stations,” she added.

Jaya told the Echo that “having a dedicated person that checks platforms and carriages” for similar incidents would help make women and girls feel safer while travelling on the tube.

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The following day, the NGO staffer took to X (formerly Twitter) to write a viral thread about the incident. She tweeted: “I want to stress that one should not underestimate the power of asking someone if they’re okay, or keeping an eye on a suspicious situation. It means so much  to us, especially as women who have to think about our personal safety in public at all times on an unparalleled level.”

Amid fervent online speculation about the racial and gender identity of her harasser, she wrote: “Also if you, as some have, are going to use this scary experience to make racist remarks about Sadiq Khan, racist generalizations about the type of men that may harass (hint: any man of any background can) or start making derogatory statements about trans women… just leave.”

Jaya took the Victoria Line back home that evening but only because two people from the event she attended had accompanied her.

While the experience hasn’t made her unwilling to return to Walthamstow, she says she would be “more mindful of going to Walthamstow Central and Blackhorse Road Station” in the evenings because they were “so empty”.

A TfL spokesperson said: “We are deeply sorry that Ms Pathak experienced this on our network. We have a zero tolerance to all forms of sexual harassment and sexual violence on London’s public transport. No one should ever have to fear or experience harassment when travelling. We would also like to thank the bystander for their support. We will continue to work with the British Transport Police to investigate this incident.”

TfL says it currently has more than 2,500 police and police community support officers, and 500 enforcement staff that patrol the network.

A spokesperson from the British Transport Police (BTP) said: “Officers are investigating a report made via the Railway Guardian app of sexual harassment that at Blackhorse Road underground station between 7pm and 7.25pm on 5th April. No one should have to put up with this on the rail network and we take all reports of this kind of behaviour very seriously.”

The spokesperson added that the force has “enhanced patrols of uniformed and specially trained plain clothes officers across stations and on trains day and night to identify offenders and reassure passengers”. 

Anyone with any information is asked to contact the British Transport Police by texting 61016 or calling 0800 40 50 40 quoting reference 146 of 07/04/24

If you experience or witness sexual harassment or an offence on the railway, contact BTP by texting 61016 or via the Railway Guardian app. In an emergency call 999.

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