Survey finds one-third of women suffered sex crime on MTR

Assaults go unreported by victims, who fear disrupting passengers and say police do little

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2012, 7:42am

More than a third of women surveyed by a rape crisis organisation say they have been victims of a sexual crime while either travelling on board an MTR train or passing through a station. But none alerted police, with many saying that making a report was a waste of time.

The poll organiser, the Rape Crisis Centre, urged MTR managers to install more surveillance cameras, especially in areas where women wearing skirts might be exposed to a peeping Tom, such as in glass elevators.

The survey, conducted online and via questionnaires handed out over the last two months, received 533 responses - 387 from women and 146 from men.

Of the women, 139 - or 36 per cent - said they had fallen victim to some form of sexual crime. Most said they had been assaulted, while some were unwilling witnesses to indecent exposure or lewd acts; others said men had tried to take invasive photographs of them.

Less than 10 per cent sought help from people nearby.

When asked why they didn't take action, more than half said they were afraid of being blamed by other passengers if they caused the train to be delayed, for example; while a quarter said a report wouldn't help.

The centre said most victims resorted to what it called a passive response, such as leaving the train compartment, holding their belongings in a protective way or staring down the offender.

Three people said they screamed loudly when the incident occurred. Police figures show there were 189 offences of sexual assault or of taking pictures up women's skirts in the first eight months on the MTR, more than the annual total last year, the report said.

While the group called for the MTR Corporation to introduce changes to deter sex criminals, it rejected the idea of adding a woman-only train compartment. It argues women should not be perceived as too weak to protect themselves. Men and transsexuals were also victims.

The crisis centre also looked at 78 MTR stations, and found that the glass sides on certain lifts and some escalators, such as in Hung Hom, could become potential "black spots" for perverts.

The Law Reform Commission is currently proposing that up-skirt picture-taking be considered a form of sexual assault, a new category replacing the current indecent assault.

Once the offence was reclassified, offenders' identities would be available in the sex-criminal register, said panel member Eric Cheung Tat-ming, assistant law professor at the University of Hong Kong. The public consultation is to end next month.

Elene Lam Yee-ling, an advocacy officer at the centre, said the proposal's wording for up-skirt photo-taking was vague.