Monday, October 3, 2016

Reducing sexual violence at UBCM and on transit

Last week at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities Conference, I talked with several colleagues —both male and female— about the pervasiveness of Rape Culture in our province. Rape Culture blames victims of sexual assault and normalizes male sexual violence. Women Against Violence Against Women is a good resource for more information on this disturbing topic.

Even at the UBCM conference, which should be a safe space, Rape Culture is ever-present. I heard stories first-hand from victims of sexual violence at the conference. Because of the pervasiveness of sexual violence, a resolution was approved at this year’s conference asking for a code of conduct for UBCM events. The resolution called for the creation of a safe mechanism for people to report sexual harassment.

If people don’t feel safe reporting sexual violence at a conference for elected officials such as UBCM, it is no surprise that people are not reporting sexual violence that occurs on public transit.

TransLink’s Transit Police started to take sexual offences more seriously in 2014. As a result, the number of reported sexual offences rapidly increased year-over-year.

Transit Police sexual offence reports from 2011 to 2015.

While it might appear that more sexual offences are occurring, it actually means that more people are reporting sexual offences which is the first step to reducing sexual offences.

The authors of the Transit Police 2015 Report to the Community state that “in 2015 more than 60% of those suspects identified had not previously come to the notice of police. Research suggests that those who commit more serious sexual offences escalate their behaviours after starting their offending history with inappropriate touching or similar offences. The early identification of this type of offence provides an opportunity to intervene and prevent such escalation.”

One of the ways that the police service is trying to make reporting sexual offences safer is with the “promotion of the transit user friendly ‘On Duty’ App and Transit Police 87 77 77 SMS/Text line both of which provide the opportunity to discreetly report offending or suspicious behaviours.”

Reducing sexual violence against women and not shaming victims of sexual violence should be a priority for all public organizations. It is disturbing that some people don’t even believe this is a serious problem today. It is good that some public organizations are starting to address reducing sexual violence in public spaces.

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