News / Ottawa

Low reporting of sexual harassment on OC Transpo: Survey

A whopping 90 per cent of respondents to a new survey said they did not report incidents of street harassment to authorities.

The survey, conducted by advocacy group Hollaback Ottawa over the past few months, found that only one in 10 of their 320 respondents reported being harassed to authorities.

"I think the general population doesn't know what street harassment is, and that you can report it," said Julie Lalonde with Hollaback. "I think the vast majority of people don't know it's an option for them."

The advocacy group defines "street harassment" as unwelcome comments or actions based on gender that invade personal or emotional space. The group has been focusing their efforts on incidents that have taken place on public transit across the city. According to police, there have been 11 reports of sexual assault on the OC Transpo system between January and July.

The low reporting is in line with national statistics on sexual assault, according to the group.

Diane Denas, the chair of Ottawa's transit commission, was unavailable for comment on the report Monday. In an emailed response sent Monday night, OC Transpo said they look forward to continuing to work with "community partners on safety and security initiatives."

Hollaback is recommending a public education campaign around street harassment, as well as a campaign focusing on safe bystander intervention. They're also calling for an anonymous reporting mechanism to flag incidents without coming forward publicly.

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