TOKYO TALE

High school student launches product to deter train gropers

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PACKED rush hour trains, delays and unpleasant odors — all familiar headaches for seasoned rail riders. Yet for some, the daily commute includes a more sinister threat: gropers.

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According to National Police Agency statistics, there were 4,250 cases of groping and other indecent assaults on trains in 2012, a 6.9 percent increase from the previous year.

To combat the problem, a long-standing issue for many women who ride trains as well as the people who operate them, a high school girl, herself a groping victim, and her mother have developed an idea to ward off sexual predators — a warning badge.

On Wednesday, the two launched an online competition to design a button to advertise that the wearer will not suffer abuse idly.

The idea stemmed from the girl’s personal experience of being groped while traveling to and from school, according to the project’s website.

Although she was disgusted by the act, she refrained from singling out someone on a packed train for fear she might accuse the wrong person, or worse, that the offender might seek revenge.

She tried various preventive measures such as carrying a security buzzer and consulting with police, none of which worked.

Tired of the situation, she and her mother came up with the idea in April to create a handmade badge to warn potential gropers.

Some people laughed at the badge attached to the back of her bag, assuming it was a joke. Other male students ridiculed her, saying “gropers have the right to choose their targets.” Yet the badge proved effective — gropers stopped harassing her.

To aid other victims struggling with similar situations, the mother and daughter decided to mass produce it.

Along with the new design, they are also crowdfunding online to produce and promote similar buttons in an effort that also kicked off Wednesday.

The new buttons will first be distributed from March 2016 to those who donate to the effort. They will then go on sale to the general public a month later in April. The price will be decided based on the amount of money secured through crowdfunding.

© 2015 THE JAPAN TIMES (TOKYO) / DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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