Transit police say sexual harassment on buses and SkyTrains is on the rise, and they are trying to find ways to encourage more women to come forward and report the incidents.
Spokeswoman Anne Drennan says in many cases the perpetrators are repeat offenders who target vulnerable women. Police say only 10 percent of sexual assaults are reported to police
Last week, a White Rock man was arrested at the Surrey Central bus loop after allegedly rubbing up against a 21-year-old woman while on the bus.
Sebastian Ramon Lopez, 37, was arrested and released, but Drennan says Lopez was already well known to them.
"He has had a lot of police contacts. Out of 150 since 2006, almost 50 of those are with Transit Police," said Drennan.
ESL student assaulted at SkyTrain station
In another case, which was reported over the weekend but happened in September, a man offered to help a foreign student buy a transit fare at the Gateway SkyTrain station in Surrey.
But after helping her buy the ticket, he began kissing and hugging the woman until she managed to push him away and get on a train.
The victim, a 29-year-old Japanese ESL student, was too traumatized to report the sexual assault at the time — a common theme, Drennan said.
'They are vulnerable because English is not very familiar to them' - Transit police spokeswoman Anne Drennan
"With ESL students, we find that, first of all, they are very often the targets of these predators," says Drennan. "They're vulnerable because English is not very familiar to them. They don't know how to report it, or who to report it to."
The woman came forward to police several months later, after describing recurring nightmares to her homestay host, who encouraged her to report the incident.
The suspect is described as a balding white man in his late 50s, approximately six feet tall, 170 pounds.He was clean-shaven and was wearing beige pants, a light — possibly green — shirt, a brown jacket and brown shoes, and carrying a brief case the morning of the assault.
Police launch text message hotline
Transit Police want users to report cases like this, so they've launched a text hotline where transit users can send messages. The text number to report an assault on transit in real time is 87-77-77.
They're also launching an app next month to make it easier to report predators.
Last year, two SFU students also launched a website to allow women to report incidents of sexual harassment on transit.
The student society at UBC has also organized a roundtable discussion for Monday evening on how to make transit safer for women.
Angela Marie MacDougall, the executive director of Battered Women's Support Services, who will be speaking at the event, says some men do use transit to sexually harass women.
"We know that there are a sizable number of men who are engaging in this form of gender violence. We want to speak, of course, about how women can be safe." said MacDougall.
"But we also want men to stop. There are men that will go onto a SkyTrain or onto a bus for that purpose, in order to do sexual violence to a woman."