News / Vancouver

Transit creeps told to 'keep your hands to yourself' in new Vancouver anti-sexual assault campaign

It’s a change in the message from Metro Vancouver's Transit Police, which previously focused on encouraging women to report sexual assault and harassment

Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director of Battered Women Support Services, worked with the Transit Police to develop a new poster campaign directed at the perpetrators of sexual crimes on transit

Jennifer Gauthier/For Metro

Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director of Battered Women Support Services, worked with the Transit Police to develop a new poster campaign directed at the perpetrators of sexual crimes on transit

A new transit safety campaign targets men who sexually assault or harass women on public transportation, telling them to “keep your hands to yourself.”

“This poster is aimed at the offender,” said Doug LePard, chief of the Transit Police. “Women are given enough responsibilities by asking them to be constantly aware, on guard and to take the initiative to report the suspects and offences.”

It’s a change in the message from Metro Vancouver Transit Police, which previously focused on encouraging women to report sexual assault and harassment. Those efforts included an awareness campaign directed at female ESL students and a text number and an app that women can use to discreetly report incidents to police and get an immediate response.

A new poster campaign targets its message towards offenders instead of victims of sexual assault and harassment on transit

Jen St. Denis

A new poster campaign targets its message towards offenders instead of victims of sexual assault and harassment on transit

“This is always the thing, whenever we talk about violence against women: how do we have that conversation that holds offenders accountable, that does not victim-blame,” said Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director of Battered Women Support Services. BWSS was one of the organizations that worked with the Transit Police for four years to develop the poster campaign.

“All levels of our society are in that process of learning about violence against women. There are a lot of myths.”

So far this year 288 sex crimes have been reported to the Transit Police, compared to 342 reports in 2015 and 311 in 2014. But international research suggests that those numbers likely represent only 10 per cent of the actual incidents, according to media liaison Anne Drennan. The force’s average “clearance rate” is 68%.

In advance of the Evergreen Line opening this Friday, the Transit Police have hired eight additional officers, LePard said, and plans to monitor their workload to determine whether more will be needed.

BWSS is also encouraging bystanders, who often stay silent, to stand up to offenders or offer support to women who are being harassed or assaulted. Here are some of their tips for bystanders:

  • Say “Hey knock it off”
  • Ask “Are you ok?”
  • Go stand next to the woman being targeted so they know they are not alone
  • Ask the woman, “Are they bothering you?”
  • Take a picture with your phone
  • Look disapprovingly at the person doing the harassing behavior
  • Offer to get off at the next stop with the woman and catch the next train together
  • Don’t join in or laugh.
  • Loudly say “ugh, that is so gross”
  • Tell a transit authority worker
  • Yell “Somebody do something!”
  • Get a group together to intervene
  • Call 911 or contact Transit Police by texting 87-77-77
  • Text a friend who is on Skytrain, Seabus or bus with you and ask them to HELP!
  • Make eye contact with some other bystanders and ask, “What should we do to help?”

Stealth Moves:

  • Ask for directions
  • Offer the woman your seat
  • Act like you know the woman and say “I’ve been looking everywhere for you – we have to hurry to meet our other friends”
  • Drop your bags to create a commotion
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