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Strangers cyber-flashing on trains ‘doubles in year’

Image: Cases are ‘largely unreported’ PICTURE: PA

WOMEN have said they were left feeling frightened, angry and embarrassed after being sent sexually explicit images by strangers while on a train.

Cyber-flashing is the act of sending an obscene image on an iPhone using file-sharing function AirDrop.

Due to the technology’s short range, victims are often targeted on trains — usually by an anonymous perpetrator in the same carriage.

Reports of cyber-flashing to British Transport Police almost doubled in a year from 34 in 2018 to 66 in 2019. It’s a large jump from 2016, when only three incidents were reported.

However, officers believe cases are going ‘largely unreported’. Det Insp Ashley Cooper said people should change their AirDrop settings to receive messages only from people in their contacts list. One woman said the advice of changing your behaviour is just ‘another thing that women are expected to do to feel safe’.

She said being sent an adult website on a train from King’s Cross to Leeds made her wish she had been ‘braver’ in tracking down the culprit.

However, the 29-year-old did report a man for committing a sex act in front of her in a restaurant. ‘Yet something about it being photos or videos makes it seem “not as bad”,’ she added. ‘But it is just as bad. I’m glad I know I can report it now and I will if it happens again.’

■ JUDITH RITA, 21, received an AirDrop notification with a picture of a man’s ‘genital area’ on a train in north-west London last year. ‘My initial reaction was fear mixed with disgust,’ she said. ‘I hit decline straight away and tried to find the culprit but the freakiest thing is that you don’t know… and whoever it was may not even know who they sent it to.’ She did not report it to police, adding: ‘In this case, how would I even know who the offender is?’