SACL informal survey opens discussion about sexual violence
AnnaLise Trudell, the manager of education, training and research for Women’s Community House and SACL, said they started a survey about sexual violence on bus routes after some survivors came forward to the centre and asked if anyone else went through similar experiences.
“As we always do, we asked them, ‘Beyond counselling, what is it that you want us to do?’ because sometimes people want us to go to the city bus and advocate for them,” she said, adding that the survey was non-representational and “wasn’t meant to be”.
Trudell explained 329 people answered the survey, with most responses over social media.
“Out of those, we had 122 say that they had experienced sexual harassment on city busses. We had 44 say they had experienced sexual assault on buses and then another 30 say they had experienced threats of sexual assault on buses,” she said.
She added that after those three main questions were answered, participants then indicated where it happened. The incidents were common on bus routes used often by Western University and Fanshawe students.
“We were able to tell those survivors, ‘Absolutely not, you are not alone,’” Trudell said. “We know that within the Canadian population, the highest incident rate of sexual assault for women is 15 to 24.”
Leah Marshall, the sexual violence prevention advisor at Fanshawe, said that the survey results will engage conversation about sexual violence and threats of sexual violence on buses. She also said that it provides an opportunity to inform students of available services if they experience or witness it.
“We know that it’s happening, but perhaps it’s a better understanding for the community and how we can respond to that type of violence,” Marshall said.
Marshall hasn’t had any students tell her that they’ve experienced sexual violence on buses.
“That doesn’t mean that individuals haven’t experienced that.”
She also said that there was a conversation between the London Transit Commission (LTC) and SACL about safety and support measures for survivors of sexual violence.
Trudell said that LTC general manager Kelly Paleczny listed safety measures, such as asking for a courtesy stop, waving at the bus and getting on without a ticket if someone felt unsafe, and requesting video and audio recording that can be accessed. However, Trudell added she found out at the meeting that most people were unaware of them.
Trudell also pointed out that there are no tips regarding safety on buses, what that means and what it feels like, on the LTC website, but the LTC plans to revamp the website to include that in May or June of 2017, along with permanent advertising on buses.
In an email, Paleczny released the following statement on behalf of the LTC.
“The LTC began a review of the safety and security measures and program currently in place in 2016. The review has been extended into 2017, with the expectation that an updated program will be introduced and communicated with the expectation that an updated program will be introduced and communicated beginning in the spring of 2017. The intent of the program is to ensure, to the extent possible, that LTC services will provide customers with a safe and secure transit experience,” she said. “The updated program will not solely focus on sexual assault, but rather on all aspects of the transit experience and various issues that could rise to a customer feeling unsafe.”
Trudell also said that she reported the survey’s results to Fanshawe College’s Sexual Violence Prevention Committee.
Marshall said there are campaigns in Edmonton and Ottawa informing people about safety measures if sexual violence occurs on buses. She said she would like to see the LTC follow suit.
She added that she knows some students will want support from off-campus resources that is why the college has community partners.
“It’s all about knowledge, and understanding that this type of violence, no matter where it falls on the spectrum, is never okay and that includes sexual harassment and knowing that there are resources and supports available for people and here at Fanshawe, we believe survivors of violence,” Marshall said. “Sexual violence isn’t about sex. It’s about power and control, so it’s very important for individuals to know they have choice in the matter and that includes where they receive services or what supports they receive and they decide what that healing journey looks like.”
Marshall said students can talk to her confidentially. To book an appointment, either call 519-452-4465 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. She also said if students prefer to not use campus resources, they can book an appointment with call 519- 646-6100 ext. 64224
The 24/7 SACL crisis hotline can be reached by calling 519-438- 2272.