Report: Street harassment in Ottawa is prevalent and under reportedThursday, July 25 2013
July 22, 2013 (Ottawa, ON). A new survey released today finds 97% of respondents experienced street harassment in the past year and only 10% reported it to the authorities. The survey findings are outlined in a new report compiled by Hollaback! Ottawa, the local chapter of an international movement dedicated to ending all forms of street harassment.
Download the full report here.
“The results are in line what we already know about sexual violence: It’s ubiquitous and yet, we rarely talk about it. It’s difficult to talk about with our friends, let alone reporting it to the police”, says Hollaback! Ottawa site director Julie Lalonde.
Our city, our space, our voice: A report on street harassment in Ottawa is the result of an open forum held in May by Hollaback! Ottawa and WISE: Women’s Initiatives for Safer Environments and a subsequent online survey. The forum focused on safety on transit with the survey addressing street harassment more broadly.
“What we’ve seen in the media over the past few months and what we saw quite clearly during our forum is that harassment on transit is a critical issue for residents” says Lisane Thirsk, policy and research officer for Hollaback! Ottawa. “With 44% of survey respondents indicating that they had been harassed on public transit at least once in the last year, it’s clear that we’re not talking about a few isolated incidents.”
Although there has been immense support for bystander intervention strategies, the survey found only 6% of respondents had a bystander intervene on their behalf.
Street harassment predominantly affects women and LGBT2QQI* folks and the impact on their daily lives is tremendous. 38% of respondents indicated that street harassment made them fearful to go out alone and 32% would routinely change their route or final destination.
“It was important for us to quantify the impacts of street harassment because we hear so often from people about how their experiences are trivialized. And yet, what we’re talking about are experiences of being yelled at, stalked, groped and flashed. There is nothing trivial about street harassment”, says Julie Lalonde.
The report calls for the creation of public awareness campaigns, tools for bystander intervention and mechanisms for anonymous reporting. It also announces the creation of a new safe(r) spaces campaign, initiated by Hollaback! Ottawa with the focus of engaging the broader community.
It is evident that there is a great deal of interest in creating change. One survey respondent summarized it perfectly: “If we all come together and fight this, not just a few individuals, but everyone who has been, will be or knows someone who has been harassed, we can make waves.”