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Commuting as a Community.

Here we are at our last #transittuesday of the Summer (*tear).  To be honest, the theme scribbled beside this Tuesday is “Back to School.” It seems we were going to recap the various things about harassment and transit that we have talked about this summer and see how we can apply them to the school year.  That was the plan .  But last week, one woman’s experience of harassment on transit went very public – and being that we are an organization whose mandate is to tackle street harassment … it’s kept us very busy.

This week we are going to try to avoid the negative aspects of this story and focus on some positive things, in an attempt to close out a Summer of Transit Tuesdays with a renewed commitment to ending street harassment on our commute. So what good can we take away from this unacceptable incident of harassment on transit?

Someone directly intervened. Granted it was a full bus and he was the only one stepping up,  physically  putting yourself between the harasser delivers a strong message that the behavior needs to stop. Not everyone is that brave however, and that’s OK. The 4 D’s we are always referring to outline other ways a person can do something when harassment like this is taking place.  Someone could have initiated a distraction, someone could have delegated the intervention over to Metro Vancouver Transit Police by texting 87 77 77. Imagine if even half of the people on the bus that day  did SOMETHING? If you want to gain more confidence in your ability to intervene- email us ( [email protected])  and ask about attending one of our community workshops.

“I shouldn’t have to change what I wear, or where I go because someone feels entitled to comment on me or my body.”    In her statement about the experience, Chantal furthers this very important point:

I’m not even going to write down what I was wearing because it doesn’t matter. But people should be able to wear whatever they want and feel safe going out. Other people should not feel that they have the power to comment on my body or what I wear because it is my decision no matter what. If my body or my dress is offending you then please don’t look, or take your opinion elsewhere.

Preach! Everyone has the right to move about their city free of harassment.   Enough said.

Investigations are being launched.  Hollaback! Vancouver joined forces with Metro Vancouver Transit Police back in April as we were encouraged that they were taking the issue of harassment on transit seriously. It is encouraging to see that the suspect is being sought, and that conversations about how drivers can keep both their riders and themselves safe are happening.

Text reporting is in the spotlight. Texting all the details of the situation to Metro Vancouver Transit Police at  87 77 77 is so easy. Its such a great tool for intervening.  A lot of people in Vancouver didn’t even know about it until this incident. Hopefully now  more people do. We encourage folks to save the number in their phone for easy access in (non emergency) situations like this. Learn more about this great safety feature here!

Stories are powerful. Hollaback! was started out of a desire to give people who experience harassment a platform to speak up. Sharing an experience of harassment challenges the narrative that street harassment is a normal part of being a woman (or other subjugated group) moving about in public space.  Speaking up can be hard – we thank Chantal for her bravery in taking her experience public. Today, a new version of our app was released on iTunes. It makes it easy and fast to tell Vancouver where and how you experienced harassment.

 

We want to know how you plan to join us in our work to eliminate street harassment. If you witness harassment on your bus or skytrain ride to school next week – will you do something about it?

Tell us on twitter with the hashtag #transittuesday

 

@hollabackvan

@transitpolice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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changing culture, transit

Message of Solidarity with Chantal Coschizza

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August 27, 2015

We at Hollaback Vancouver open our arms in solidarity with Chantal Coschizza who, this week, was yet another victim of harassment in our community. We are saddened by the news and applaud the efforts being taken to  launch investigations. So often harassment is silenced, swept under the rug or forgotten. It is people like Coschizza who fearlessly show its realities that will have the ability to influence change.

This instance is yet another example of how prominent and normalized sexual violence has become in our public spaces. The intervention of only one  bystander for what was a rattling experience for Coschizza reinforces our need, as a community, to educate ourselves and move to a place of solidarity against gendered and sexualized violence in every sphere.

Next time you find yourself witnessing an act of harassment, we encourage you to be an active bystander. The four tactics we suggest include being direct, distracting the attention away from the situation, delegating to higher authorities (such as using the direct text line 87-77-77) and delaying your exit to make sure the person whom received the harassment is okay.

In an effort to end instances like that of Chantal Coschizza, Hollaback Vancouver would like to facilitate community workshops around the issues of gendered violence, street harassment and the opportunity for healing. If you or your group would like to participate, please get in touch.

Hollaback Vancouver will also continue to work alongside people like Chantal and with partnerships like Metro Vancouver Transit Police to move towards a community that says no to harassment. We recognize that street and public harassment are symptoms of a larger culture of sexual exploitation. We also envision a community in which every gender can enjoy public space freely, openly and safely.

 

 

Hollaback Vancouver

[email protected]

@hollabackvan

[pdf version available here]

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How do you intervene?

And we are back with another #transittuesday!

Summer is wrapping up ( sad, isn’t it?) so it is a good time to review the 4 D’s of Bystander Intervention.  If you witness what looks like harassment while on the bus or skytrain (or anywhere actually)  you have the power to intervene in one of 4 ways:

DIRECT –  saying something like ” Hey. What you are doing is harassment and you need to stop.”

DISTRACT – do something that takes the attention off the target. Offer to trade them seats, ask the harasser the time, or break into song

DELEGATE – This is the easiest way to do something when you see anything that causes you concern- find someone else to deal with it. An example of this is using the text reporting feature. Text all the details of the situation to 87 -77-77 and Metro Vancouver Transit Police will do the work.

DELAY – this is an opportunity to stick around and check in with the person who was on the receiving end of inappropriate behavior. It’s as simple as making eye contact with them or asking if they are ok or need any other assistance.

 

Facebook Week 1 Overall graphic small

 

We will end this weeks post with a great example of Distraction :

 

 

 

What’s your preffered method of bystander intervention?

 

 

Tell us on Twitter  – #transittuesday

 

@Hollabackvan

@Transitpolice

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Our own Stacey, wrote a piece for  GUTS Magazine

10 THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT STREET HARASSMENT

 

 

Metro-GUTS

As part of international Anti Street Harassment Week in April, I led a campaign that asked people to record the number of times street harassment interrupted their day over a twenty-four-hour period. Participants would click on a counter twice for every time they directly experienced street harassment, and once for any time street harassment otherwise negatively affected them (e.g., avoiding a block where they were previously harassed). Participants were also given a sketchbook to journal or doodle to express feelings that the campaign provoked. At the end of the twenty-four hours, they passed everything on to another participant.

Following the two-week campaign, we displayed the numbers and the art at a wrap-up party at the end of April. It was my hope that through this initiative, I could teach my community that street harassment is a real problem that impacts people’s access to public space and perceptions of safety. Here, I share what the campaign taught me.

 

  1.    Street harassment affects your day more than you think.

Street harassment culture is so pervasive in our lives that we often don’t even think about it until we are asked to think about it. This may be a survival mechanism, or may be a result of finely sharpened “tuning out” skills as a result of dealing with this shit for most of our lives. My own daily routine now includes things I do without realizing, like adding ten minutes onto my walk to work to avoid a new construction site down the block, or using my large handbag to cover my neckline when passing in front of a certain business’s outdoor “smoking area.” I encourage people to try this exercise for themselves: carry a counter and pay attention. Use your clicks as “teachable moments” to talk about street harassment and rape culture with partners, children, or coworkers.

 

  1.    But not all men…

Wait. Have I changed my tune? Well no, allow me to qualify this statement. When it comes to street harassment, not all men … get it. The repeat offenders hollering out of cars or from scaffolding two stories up are committing deliberate acts of harassment that play off power dynamics.  The creep bothering you while you are out with friends and who wont take “no” for an answer is fueled by a sense of entitlement in regards to women. I am not talking about those men. Just as patriarchy has forced beauty ideals and gendered norms on me, it has taught men to value and express appreciation of those things. In most men, it doesn’t manifest in the form of street harassment, but it also doesn’t get unpacked, challenged or analyzed.

There are men out there who really just don’t understand the problem in say, asking a woman to smile. I met a couple of these men at the wrap-up party, and watched them as they circled the art twice or even three times, pausing wide-eyed in front of a select few pieces. They were the men asking questions and (more importantly) listening fully and openly as people answered. These men, having had their a-ha moment, are unbelievably valuable to the feminist movement. They are more likely to be the ones challenging their coworkers and friends now that they have had a glimpse of the other side.

 

  1. There is no one way to define, experience, or represent street harassment.

We all walk through our lives with different trauma, identities, oppressions, coping skills, secrets, support networks, stressors, and triggers. This means that harassment can look and feel and affect everyone’s life in different ways. Rather than attempt to synthesize the experience into something universal, it is much more productive to honour this difference, and dissect what it is about the cities and society that makes difference unsafe.

 

  1. Street harassment awareness can be a gateway feminism.

This is kind of related to #2, but less specific to men. One of the most common questions I get asked (and not just by male-identifying folk) about street harassment is something along the lines of,  “But aren’t there bigger problems for women to worry about?”  They seem to think those “bigger problems” exist in a vacuum with zero connection to any of the micro-aggressions subjugated groups face in their day-to-day activities.

My answer to these types of dismissals? “Yes, exactly!” I am acutely aware that women often face much more serious acts of violence, with far too much frequency. However, I believe that things like street harassment act as systemic support beams, which structurally hold up those more serious forms of violence. So taking a stand against something that is “less serious” is still important as it weakens those buttresses.

If we can place acts of violence on a continuum, then we can also place entry points to activism on that same continuum. While it isn’t my job to make feminism more palatable or easier to swallow, I do feel a responsibility to jump on opportunities to connect “feminist” issues with people who maybe don’t realize certain things are feminist issues. Street harassment is a good example of such an opportunity because it can be talked about in so many different ways. At the art show I overheard it being framed in conversations about race, sexual orientation, urban planning, gentrification and socio-economics. There were people (including women) who told me outright they “weren’t feminists,” but still felt moved by the show. Score one for feminism.

 

  1.   It’s all about delivery.

While there is no context in which a stranger shouting “Nice T*ts” could be called anything else other than street harassment, in some circumstances how and when things are said influence how we receive them. One woman at the show illustrated this in her story about someone yelling at her: “That dress is a great colour on you!” She had the clicker but paused a moment before deciding not to press it.  Why? In this case, the person saying it was whizzing past on a bike. There was no extended assessment, no sense of entitlement, or prolonged time in which she felt trapped inside the encounter.

 

  1. When throwing social justice events, social media is your friend.

Thanks to shares, retweets, likes, and favourites, we had people all across North America aware of our event. Media messaged us relentlessly through the Hollaback! Facebook page with interview requests. While it’s by no means a reliable prediction for turn out, we had double the amount of people clicking “attending” than could fit it the venue. This interest motivated us to promote even harder, and do all we could to make the event the best it could be all because people were paying attention and interested.

 

  1. Affordable, accessible public spaces are crucial to community activism.

So this isn’t specific to street harassment, but in hunting for a venue that met our requirements (as close to free as possible, accessible space AND washroom, safe, on a main transit line) I came to see how valuable these spaces are. If you want to bring all of community together to talk about important things, you need a space that all of your community can access. If your city or town has one of these, support it! Throw your next event there, volunteer with them, donate cash or items they need. If this is something your community is missing, advocate and organize to try and get one going.

 

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  1. What’s in a number?

Too often we tend to rely on quantifiable indicators in determining the seriousness of a problem. Statistics and polls are often used to evoke an emotional “buy in” from stakeholders and community members. Higher percentages (e.g., large numbers of victims) legitimize where and how we distribute attention and resources. I bought into this school of thought as well. I created the campaign to show my city exactly how much of a problem street harassment is. I figured with ten counters out for fourteen days, even with some attrition due to delays in passing them on, we could still easily get eighty participants.

In media interviews I boasted we had the potential to get 140 different experiences. When reports asked me to speculate about what the average number would be (which almost all of them did), I couldn’t come up with an answer. I referred them back to that being one of the purposes of the campaign: to put a number beside the problem.

When the two weeks were up we ended up with a little under half of our goal, thirty participants. Would thirty be enough of a return to have people take street harassment seriously?

The cover page of the sketchbook was where people wrote their name and the number on the counter when their twenty-four hours were up. The numbers on these pages fell on a wide range from 0 to 24 (with “in one lunch hour” scribbled beside it) to 71. Did I need to boast the higher numbers to justify my cause? How would I speak to the media about the 1,2, and 3’s that came back?

I did some loose math, calculated the mean, and figured that if each participant slept eight hours out of their twenty-four, street harassment interrupted their waking day every 1 hour and 43 minutes. But was that enough? Where was the fictitious line that needed to be crossed to “legitimize” this problem?

Turns out the answer wasn’t in the numbers at all. Inside the sketchbooks were beautiful, raw expressions of what it feels like to be objectified, yelled at, threatened, sexualized, fetishized, and targeted and intimidated as you try to move about the community you call home. People recounting their experiences and illustrating the impact on their daily lives made even the “1” on the list seem like too many times for a person to be subjected to this in a day, never mind 71. Which leads me to say…

 

  1. Stories are powerful.

I see sharing stories as a powerful tool to chip away at the culture, at those support beams I mentioned above, at the conditions in our society that have historically normalized street harassment as the toll you pay for being female, or being gay or lesbian, or being trans* or gender non conforming or even just being some degree of “different” and in public space.

Stories show our strength in the face of this daily reality. Stories hold a lot of weight. The “big reveal” of the totals at the party ended up being the foot notes of our tales, referring the audience back to the chapters and driving home the point that what we are saying has unfortunately come from years of research.

 

  1. Feminism is fun!

Ok, maybe I already knew this one. The wrap-up party was a much-needed reminder that there is nothing like celebrating small victories along the road to liberation in the company of partners in crime, allies, and new friends. Just make sure you have a great playlist.

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These boots are made for walkin (or biking, or bussing, or skytraining or cabbing…)

boots-colorful-combat-boots-cute-fashion-Favim.com-98850

 

In late July, we celebrated our official 1 year anniversary of fighting street harassment in Vancouver.

For a year now, we have published very troublesome stories of folks experiencing whistles, cat calls, name calling, flashing, groping, violence,  and other unacceptable ( and infuriating, and terrifying)  behaviors directed at them as they move around Vancouver.

One thing these stories have in common ( besides having a creep perpetrator  as the antagonist) is that they all take place while people are  navigating public space, in transit from A to B to C.

Living within a society that wants us to victim blame, there is a tendency to look at what the target was doing, wearing, saying – WHERE they were going- HOW they moved about and WHY.

“Safety Advice” often given to women (although we know harassment and assault often arises out of oppression beyond gender including factors such as ableism, sexual orientation, race, socio-economic class) wrongly perpetuates the idea that it is  their own responsibility to prevent  their sexual assault, and often includes “tips” like:

  • Don’t walk alone
  • Don’t walk at night
  • Avoid poorly lit streets when walking
  • Don’t take rides from strangers
  • Don’t walk in that, you’ll attract attention.
  • Don’t walk after a few drinks (… maybe don’t drink at all, heaven forbid you let down your guard)
  • If you do walk – pretend to be on your phone, put your keys in your hands, be ready to preform that self defense  stuff offered by your university )
  • Don’t walk! take a cab or the bus!

(ummm should I maybe just stay home then?)

The blog (ran by 2 people we are honored to work along side of) “Harassment on Translink” documents harassment that happens when people heed the above advice and take the bus

…which  shows us that harassment and assault happens on public transit too.

In submission to our site, S.F. shares a creepfest story of harassment when she took a cab (Trigger warning for content )

and recently:

a  Halifax taxi driver is still permitted to work despite being caught by police having just assaulted a woman (and documented complaints of a sexual nature)

…so it also happens in taxis.

Our site has countless tales of harassment happening as people jog, bike and walk all around the city – What does that tell us? That the problem is NOT how we get to A to B – it is certain people we encounter along the way. People that are acting on power dynamics and a sense entitlement. People who don’t understand consent.  People without respect or regard for personal space and bodily autonomy.

 

For this weeks #transittuesday, let’s recognize this.  Those who experience sexual harassment and assault are not to blame. It doesn’t matter where you go, what time you left, how you get there or what you wore – people deserve to move around this city freely and safely.

Recognizing this is a very important step in making public transit safer for everyone.  Another important piece is stepping up when you see or hear something that doesn’t look quite right – whether its on the streets, at school, work or on your commute. It’s so easy on the bus or skytrain – just text the details of any non emergent situation to 87-77-77.

There was an awesome example yesterday on the blog mentioned above of someone directly calling out a harasser on a bus – Holla!

We will end this weeks #transittuesday with a powerful and relevant spoken word piece by a colleague at Hollaback! Halifax

 

 

Join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #transittuesday

@hollabackvan

@transitpolice

 

 

 

 

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The United Nations & Harassment on transit.

Did you know that Women’s safety on transit is such a serious issue  that even the United Nations weighed in on the matter?

 

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In 2011 the UN Women Committee created their Safe Cities Global Initiative. Included in this are best practices for making public transit safer for women and girls. Here we are going to highlight a few recommendations from that initiative that Hollaback! and the Metro Vancouver Transit Police are already recognizing through their common mandates, making us natural partners

 

Advocate for gendered safety considerations as important issues that complement and do not detract from other transit concerns.  

Public transit, being a public agency and government funded is an inherently political topic that often ignites community debate.

Freedom of mobility is a right of all community members, so when resources are dedicated to making transit safer for women and girls, it is important to acknowledge that making transit safer for vulnerable riders – benefits ALL vulnerable riders – this often includes the distinct needs of old and young people, the disabled, and other vulnerable groups. Also, increasing reliability and safety of public transportation will likely lead to an increase in ridership, which of course has positive financial and environmental impact for the whole community.

 

Represent men and women equally among transit staff and public officials.

 

“A larger and more gender-mixed staff presence among transport officials may encourage women, girls and other people that experience harassment, abuse, robbery or any type of violent act to make a complaint. Likewise, the combination of more staff and the more equal representation of both women and men may help to deter violent acts in the first place”

 

Coordinate all actions related to safe public transit initiatives.

It is logical to partner with agencies that share the mandate of reducing violence against women. Our community is full of valuable resources and experts, and bringing them together is important to strengthen plans, policies, campaigns and resources and also avoid unnecessary duplication of services or messages.  All of the blogging and tweeting we do using #transittuesdays is a perfect example of the recommendation stating:

 “Produce and distribute materials about safety to public transit users.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Above  is the 2-sided info card that Hollaback and Metro Vancouver Transit Police collaborated on. We wanted the campaign to emphasize :

 

  • Recognizing what harassment is and that harassment is not a compliment, hence the hash tag #itsnotacompliment
  • Bystanders have a very valuable role in acting when they see something that isn’t right
  • How to report or get assistance for non-emergency issues on transit, like street harassment, which is of course the text reporting.

 

 

Do you have any suggestions on what more can be done to make Vancouver Transit safer? Do you have a harassment on transit story to share?

Please join in on the #transittuesday conversation on twitter:

 

@hollabackvan

@transitpolice

 

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Tune in to these Transit Tuesday Videos!

Transit Tuesday is here again!  Today we are sharing some videos that take a look at harassment

In 2013 Hollaback! Philly ( Now Feminist Public Works) ran an advertising campaign on Philadelphia  trains to address harassment and sexual offending on transit.

The video  below shows team members seeing the ads for the first time and talking to riders about them. What do you think of ads like this on the train? Do you find it effective? Is it a good way to reach bystanders or potential harassers?  Tell us what you think on twitter with the #transittuesday hashtag  @hollabackvan @ TransitPolice

 

 

This short video from the Vancouver Transit Police shows how easy it is to send a text message to 87-77-77  reporting harassment, creeps or anything else of concern on transit :

 

 

And finally.  A really awesome music video from Seattle band Tacocat  talking back to street harassers!  Perhaps next time you need to use the Distraction technique you can bust out this!

 

 

 

 

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Three Passengers, One Train

 

Trigger warning – today’s Transit Tuesday post shares one woman’s experience describing name calling and attempted physical violence.

(click on each in order to read)

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This poem tells the story of harassment and violence on transit from 3 different perspectives. It was bravely shared with us as part of our “What’s your Number” Campaign and art show in April.

 

The poem presents at least 2 people ( in talking about the experience, we learned the Skytrain was full when the incident that inspired the piece took place)  who experienced what is known as  the bystander effect .

 

Let’s revisit the experience above and see if  the 4 ‘D ( as talked about last week) could have been used at any point in this example.

 

** Remember, people’s own experience, trauma, skill set and comfort vary, so each of these is presented as an option and not necessarily what anyone should or could have done**

 

Direct –   Was there an opportunity for anyone in the story to say something like “Hey. This is not ok. Stop it.”  ? Direct intervention is often seen as one of the most challenging interventions to implement  ( good thing there are other strategies!) – can you give any ideas as to why?

 

Distract – Examples of distraction are trading seats with a target,  interrupting the exchange by asking something such as  “ How far away am I from metrotown?” or even deliberating causing some sort of scene to divert the attention off the target. Would something like this apply here? What distraction would you be likely to try?

 

Delegate – This is often the easiest for most people. In this case, for something on a skytrain you could text  Metro Vancouver Transit Police at 87 77 77 and tell them what you were witnessing. Other examples of delegation would be pressing the yellow strip located at eye level on the train, or even calling 911 as things escalated like they did in this story.

 

Delay – All three perspectives in this story mention other people avoiding eye contact, looking away or focussing on their phone.  Don’t underestimate what an act of solidarity making eye contact is. If you are able – stick around and offer support to someone one the receiving end of inappropriate attention. It can be as simple as asking “Are you ok” or “Can I do anything?”

 

Share your answers. What would you do in this situation? Tell us on twitter with the hashtag #transittuesday. While you are at it – show this rider , “S” some solidarity !
@hollabackvan     @TransitPolice

 

This weeks poll can be found here

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