June 15, 2017 (Ottawa, ON). This week marks the two-year anniversary of a successful and ongoing joint anti-harassment strategy between OC Transpo and local women’s groups.
The Let OC Transpo Know campaign and the online reporting mechanism were released in June 2015. This was the result of a collaborative effort between local women’s groups and OC Transpo. Women’s groups raised concerns about the unique forms of harassment that women and LGBTQ* folks experience on and around transit.
“We were hearing from women and LGBTQ* folks about their experiences of harassment, leering and just generally being made to feel uncomfortable”, says Hollaback! Ottawa site director Julie Lalonde. “Women wanted to see targeted messages about their experiences and accessible ways for them to report it.”
OC Transpo is pleased that this collaborative relationship has resulted in an effective solution for the community. In the two years since the campaign was introduced, OC Transpo has noted an increase in the number of reported incidents.
“Since the launch of OC Transpo’s online incident reporting tool, over 800 incidents have been reported,” said Councillor Stephen Blais, Chair of the City of Ottawa’s Transit Commission. “Thanks to the collaboration and invaluable feedback received from Hollaback! Ottawa and other local women’s groups at the onset of this project, OC Transpo was able to successfully implement an anonymous reporting option – the first of its kind in Canada – which I believe has contributed to the ongoing success of this initiative.”
OC Transpo, Hollaback! Ottawa and local women’s groups have embraced this anti-harassment strategy along with the anonymous on-line reporting option and it is encouraging to see more people willing to Let OC Transpo Know.
“An increase in reporting and an increase in incidents are two different things”, says Valerie Collicott from WISE, an organization working to make public spaces safer for women in the city. “An increase in reporting is a good news story. It means women are feeling more comfortable coming forward. They feel like they’re being heard and believed.”
Transit usage is predicted to spike over the summer months with the festival season and Canada150 Celebrations. Public awareness campaigns and visibility around reporting mechanisms are helpful for daily commuters and tourists alike.
“We’re encouraged by the feedback we’ve received on the campaign, but we know that gender based violence in public spaces tends to get worse in the summer”, adds Erin Leigh from the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence against Women (OCTEVAW). “We want women and LBGTQ* folks to know that we’re continuing to collaborate with OC Transpo. We’re here for you.”
For more information about Let OC Transpo Know and the anonymous online reporting tool, please visit octranspo.com/safe-travels.
The Women’s Safety Group consists of Hollaback! Ottawa, WISE Ottawa, the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC), Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa (SASC) and the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence against Women (OCTEVAW).