Skip to main content

The Toxicity of London’s Bystander Culture

by Faith Suronku-Lindsay 

Trigger Warning: SA topics

Uncomfortable tube journeys are an everyday occurrence for most Londoners. Screaming children, tipsy 20-somethings, and tourists trying to navigate how to get to one of the palaces. 

Amongst all that noise, an everyday occurrence has become one that epitomises sitting still and shutting up, no matter the circumstance. And to what detriment? People’s safety. 

At the forefront of recent British news, a 20 year old woman was raped as she slept, on a morning tube passing through West London, by Ryan Johnston, 37. 

Johnston’s mere nine year sentence has sparked controversy for the lack of justice for victims of sexual offences. Not only was this individual a victim of rape, but also the toxicity of bystander culture in the city. 

Despite often being brushed off as a ‘London attitude’, it is clear that this manner goes far beyond just a cultural norm. It allows people to believe it is better to actively ignore issues and to stay silent, even at the expense of others. 

If not for a French tourist and his young son reporting the incident in its aftermath, would anyone have spoken up? It’s easy to think you wouldn’t have done the same, yet we are a product of our environment. Whether it’s the fear of putting yourself in harms way, or just not knowing how to help. 

Whilst there seems to be an awareness of this behaviour from Transport for London (TfL), evident through the Active Bystander Campaign, launched in March earlier this year. There is arguably little work being done to shift the mindsets of commuters themselves throughout the city. We need to highlight what it means the be an active bystander in public spaces and to educate people on how to react and help. 

Born and raised in the capital myself, I’m often referred to as ‘streetwise’. Which in most cases means quiet, passive and willing to ‘just get on with it’. We need to begin actively subverting those expectations, in which ‘standing by’ is no longer the norm.

Of course, this is not merely a London issue, and to suggest otherwise would be to ignore the danger to women and female-identifying individuals around the world. However, questioning wrongs is an important first step to shifting mindsets of how we should deal with injustice. 

With a third of women admitting to having been a victim of sexual offences on the train or tube, there is a clear need to change and unlearn behaviours. Why should we be subjected to harassment on our morning commute to work? 

Edited by Emily Duff

Most Popular

Fashion For a Cause: Brands That Stand with Palestine and the history of fashion as a form of Activism

by Oana-Maria Moldovan For over two months, there has been an ongoing genocide war in Gaza. To simplify a long and horrific issue, the situation that started, on a larger scale, around one hundred years ago, and has only become amplified since October 7th 2023. Taking place around the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Israel–Lebanon border, the armed conflict is between Israel and Hamas-led Palestinian militant groups.  The problem is about “stolen” land. Said land is seen as an important holy part of both religions involved. But really, how holy can we consider a land to be, if people kill other people for it? It’s important to remember that this genocide is about three things: forced occupation, zionism, and religion. It’s also important to remember what ethnic erasure is. This terrible expresion, also known as cultural or ethnic assimilation, refers to the process by which the distinct cultural or ethnic identity of a particular group is gradually diminished or erased, often due to ext

‘Make Tattooing Safe Again’: Sheffield Based Tattoo Artist Exposed for Indecent Behaviour

 by Emily Fletcher TW: SA, Animal Abuse, Transphobia Photo Credit: @ meiko_akiz uki Recently, an  Instagram account  has been created to provide a  ‘space to safely give a voice to those who want to speak out about the behaviour of one, Sheffield based tattoo artist’. A  total of 40+ posts have been made by the above social media account regarding  one of Sheffield's most popular tattoo artists .  Thankfully, all posts are prefaced with a Content Warning prior to sharing screenshots of the messages that have been sent anonymously to the page. The majority of Content Warnings refer to sexual behaviour, abuse, and sexual assault. It is clear that there is a reoccurring theme within each submission, as many clients appear to have had the same experiences with the tattoo artist. Women, mostly, are being made to feel uncomfortable while being tattooed. One of the most vulnerable positions anyone can be in, tattoo artists should make their clients feel comfortable and safe during the pro

Now What? The Aftermath of the 'Manic Pixie Dream Girl'

by Susan Moore Here is a bit about me: I am an open, excitable, creative AFAB who is also moderately attractive. I have a unique sense of personal style and a personality that on the surface can only be described as “bubbly” and “quirky”. For this reason, dating is a nightmare. To be sure, I do not have a hard time finding dates or potential suitors. The problems arise when said dates spend some time with me and decide that I am a rare specimen, and the connection they feel with me is “unlike anything they have felt before”. Then, things go one of two ways.  Either a) they decide I am too high maintenance and no longer palatable, or  b) they choose to never look further than the surface and are content to date the idea of me rather than the real me. There is something rather interesting, perhaps funny, about my situation. It is in no way unique. I have met so many people who constantly dealt with the same problem. Even funnier still, is the fact that there is a trope that simultaneousl