OC Transpo safety measures : We did it, folks!

On May 15, 2013 we hosted an open forum where we asked women to share their concerns about safety on OC Transpo. What we heard is in line with what we know about gender-based violence more broadly: it’s happening; it’s humiliating; people don’t talk about it and when they do? Their experiences are often dismissed or minimized as “not a big deal.” But gender-based violence is a big deal.

You can read our full report about the open forum here.

We asked the community for solutions and they told us that an anonymous reporting mechanism would allow marginalized transit users to feel more comfortable alerting OC Transpo about the types of harassment and violence they are experiencing. They also wanted more awareness about harassment and better advertising of ways that people can let OC Transpo know.

And guess what? WE GOT THEM! 

The anonymous reporting mechanism will allow anyone, including a 3rd party, to report any incident to OC Transpo 100% anonymously.

The ads, although they aren’t nearly as strong as we’d like them to be, are a positive step in the right direction of naming harassment and violence on transit. Baby steps are happening!

Hollaback! Ottawa is an entirely volunteer-driven organization with no funding, staff or office space. That we were able to turn our community consultations into reality is a testament to the importance of true collaboration. Thank you to OC Transpo for attending our forum two years ago, creating the Safety Working Group and allowing us and fellow violence against women agencies to be heard.

But most of all, thank you to the community who has shared their stories with us and trusted us to represent them. We made a commitment to our community 2 years ago that we would amplify their voices and we are so happy to be here today to show off the fruits of that labour.

Thank you to our allies in the community for stepping up and supporting us. WISE: Women’s Initiatives for Safer Environments has been there for us since day 1. When we approached OC Transpo in February of 2013 and were essentially shot down, WISE was there with us right away. Thank you.

Big ups to fellow community allies Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW), Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa (SASC), Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC) and City for All Women Initiative (CAWI) for being such perpetual badasses. Sitting at the table with you folks for the past year or so has been an amazing experience and we look forward to continuing this work with y’all.

We believe in “community on a bus.” Taking the bus is, by definition, a shared experience. It is our hope that these new safety mechanisms will remind folks to look out for each other and to have each other’s backs.

As an organization that works with survivors of gender-based harassment, we know that simply telling people to report is not enough. People need to trust that the system will listen, that OC Transpo will follow through and that their concerns will be taken seriously.

If you’ve been harassed, we want you to let OC Transpo know. But we also want you to know that: we believe you.

The work to make public transit safer does not end today. We are committed to holding OC Transpo accountable and working collaboratively with our allies at the Safety Working Group.

But for now? We celebrate!

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