It’s a problem women’s advocates calls “endemic:” sexual assault and harassment on the region’s transit system.
Now, the Metro Vancouver Transit Police are stepping up efforts to stop sexual offences, with the launch of a new poster campaign.
The new posters read “Unwanted touching is a crime. Keep your hands to yourself,” and include numbers to call for help.
On its own, a poster may not sound like much, but the Executive Director of Battered Women’s Support Services Angela Marie MacDougall, says what is important is that the poster doesn’t victim-blame by telling women what to do to avoid sexual assault.
Instead, the posters’ message is aimed at the offenders.
“One of the things that I think is so important in what we’re trying to do here today is to create a culture that understands that sexual offences on public transportation is not OK.”
MacDougall says the posters are a first step, in that they acknowledge that the problem is real.
“The first solution is [admiting] that we have a problem, the next thing is we draw awareness and we build in supports and that includes offender accountability and survivors’ support.”
The move follows a public awareness campaign which began in June when Transit Police released numbers showing sexual assaults had more than doubled between 2011 and 2015.
But there were questions at the time of whether there were more assaults, or more women were coming forward to report them.
The assaults that were being reported are considered to be “low level” – with the sex offenders using crowded conditions on board SkyTrains, and also singling out foreign students who are seen as being more vulnerable and less likely to report because of the language barrier.