On May 15, 2013 Hollaback! Ottawa, in partnership with WISE: Women’s Initiatives for Safer Environments, hosted an open forum where approximately 70 community members gathered in the Bronson Centre to discuss the issue of safety on Ottawa’s public transit.
Transit riders were given the space to share their experiences through an open mic, a survey and an anonymous story drop-off. Participants spoke about being followed home from transit stops, being groped by fellow passengers, witnessing public masturbation on transit and being followed from seat to seat by belligerent men. They spoke about idle bystanders and the various reasons they never reported it. Although their stories varied, there was a consistent call for increased awareness of the issue.
The latter portion of the evening included a short presentation on Hollaback! Ottawa’s vision for safer transit. Hollaback! Ottawa has been calling for the creation of a public awareness campaign focusing on bystander intervention. Using case studies from other communities across North America, Hollaback! showed examples of successful bystander intervention campaigns and then opened the floor for feedback.
There was a lively discussion about the need for increased awareness about the prevalence of harassment and assault on transit, the importance of making information accessible and a stronger response from OC Transpo, City Hall and the Ottawa Police Service. From the animated dialogue came five solid recommendations.
In order to address safety on transit, participants recommended:
1- Creation of a campaign that clearly identifies the issue so that transit riders are better equipped to spot the problem.
2- Creation of a campaign that visibly lays out existing services and reporting mechanisms.
3- Creation of a public education campaign that focuses on tangible ways that people can safely intervene.
4- Increased training for drivers, Special Constables, maintenance staff, etc.
5- Creation of an anonymous reporting mechanism to encourage reporting.
Furthermore, participants were adamant that a partnership between community organizations and OC Transpo and Ottawa Police Service was vital. Seeing a visible partnership would send a strong message to the community that safety is genuinely a priority on public transit.
Hollaback! Ottawa launched a qualitative survey on May 15 that will be closing on July 1, 2013. A full report of the survey results and detailed information from the forum will be made available mid-July.
For more information: Julie Lalonde, Hollaback! Ottawa: [email protected]