closed entrance to a metro station in France


Paris metro to open ‘safe spaces’ for sexual abuse victims


The Paris public transport authority (RATP) will operate “safe spaces” from September, where victims of sexist abuse or sexual violence can seek refuge.

RATP will gradually implement the designated secure locations across its network starting in the new school year in France, Le Parisien reports.

The spaces are designed as a refuge, a safe place where people who experience sexual harassment or violence will be listened to, given guidance or just allowed to wait until an “attacker” has gone. Such locations might be shops, restaurants, or other public places, depending on where a specific metro stop or station is.

“While RATP is responsible for ensuring a peaceful journey, we are not alone; businesses will also get involved,” Sandrine Charnoz, a deputy mayor of Paris who heads the project against sexual harassment in public transport, told the French newspaper.

Last year, employees of 15 businesses connected to the subway were trained on how to help victims of sexist abuse or sexual violence on the public transport network.

Paris’ Auber and Opéra stations will be the first to try the system. It will also be integrated into the Imay app for people who feel unsafe on the streets.

RATP hopes to “involve major businesses” in the project and to deploy the system across numerous stations on the Parisian network. The goal is to create “a caring and aware ecosystem”, Charnoz said.

According to a study of the Paris Region Institute, 93.5 per cent of the victims of sexual violence on public transport are female, with half of them being under 25 years old. In 2021 there were 2,039 victims of sexual aggression on the networks. Men tend to fear aggression and theft more, with  64 per cent of victims of intentional assault and battery being male.

Every year, more than a billion trips are made on the Paris metro. The French Ministry of the Interior estimates that there were 29 victims of theft and violence per million journeys made on public transport in Paris in 2020 although many victims, particularly of verbal or sexual assaults, do not inform authorities and thus such attacks are not recorded.