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 )
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