Not interested, capisce?!

Dann stieg ein Mann im Alter von etwa 40 Jahren ein und setzte sich zu mir ins Abteil. Das war mir schon unangenehm, weil der Zug doch leer war...

“I was about sixteen and travelling on my own on the train from Kaiserstuhl to Zürich. It was a hot summer’s day and apart from a young couple aged around twenty, there was nobody else in the train. Then a forty-year-old man got on and came and sat by me. That made me uncomfortable in any case, since the train was basically empty and he could have chosen somewhere else. I deliberately ignored him, listened to music and looked out of the window. But then he started talking to me. I didn’t engage and made it clear that I wasn’t interested in conversation. But he just kept talking – and then he put his hand on my thigh. As I said, it was a very hot summer’s day and I was wearing shorts. He started feeling more of my leg and I gathered up my courage and said loudly, so that the young couple would be able to hear, “Take your hand away!” I deliberately used the formal German you, to create a distancing effect. Then I got up and went to sit near the young couple. They behaved as though nothing had happened. It would have been very helpful if they had come to my aid and had shown a bit more moral courage.”


Zero tolerance for harassment!

Incidents like this on public transport happen more often than people realise. Sexual harassment can happen in all kinds of different places and take many different forms – it could be inappropriate looks, sexist gestures or suggestive remarks or even unwanted touching. Nobody has the right to harass you verbally or physically. You do not have to tolerate anything you do not want! Sexual assault violates a person’s mental and physical integrity and is a criminal offence.

If you have been assaulted, get in touch with a victim advice centre. They will help you understand your rights, the advantages and disadvantages of reporting the incident and what happens in the criminal process. Victim advice centres can help you deal with the incident and organise ongoing support.


When you’re on public transport and somebody is harassing you:

  • You have the right to defend yourself however you can. For example, you can say loud and clear “Stop that! Don’t touch me!”, or you can defend yourself physically against the harasser.
  • If there are other people around, go and sit with them or address them directly and personally. For example: “Hey, you in the blue coat, could you help me?”
  • Call someone you trust and explain the situation.
  • Make a note of the incident, including details such as the place and time and any features of the perpetrator’s appearance: height, size, hair colour, skin colour, how they were dressed, and anything else you noticed to give the police as detailed a description as possible.
  • Inform the tram/bus/train staff.
  • If something does happen, seek help, for example from a victim advice centre. You will be offered free and confidential advice about your rights and options.
  • If you are harassed, threatened or physically attacked, call the police on 117.


If you see someone being harassed while you’re on public transport:

  • Don’t look away. Go to the aid of the victim. For example, speak to them directly, offering help.
  • Avoid putting yourself in danger by asking people around you to come with you to help the victim.
  • Inform the tram/bus/train staff.
  • If you see other people being harassed, threatened or physically attacked, call the police on 117.