Wednesday, August 21, 2013

OC Transpo's image hammered by inaction on harassment

The Ottawa Citizen published an editorial on Tuesday, which lambasted OC Transpo for its poor response to a recent sexual assault that was initiated at Blair Station:

"Of course no one expects OC Transpo to comment on the details of an alleged crime, but it is fair to expect the organization to grant an interview to a reporter who has general questions about security. OC Transpo already considers safety in the design of its stations, but without a frank, ongoing community discussion, it’s hard to know whether there is more Ottawa could do to make transit users less vulnerable."

That recent instance of harassment that took place near Blair Station took place last week, where a woman was sexually assaulted and robbed while waiting for her bus.

A failure to appropriately respond to that issue is obviously unacceptable, but it's even more deplorable when Ottawa Hollaback!, a local movement dedicated to ending street harassment, reported on how terribly common sexual assaults are on OC Transpo nearly a month ago--a report to which OC Transpo offered no meaningful response. They also approached OC Transpo and the city in February of this year, but were similarly "brushed off."

There is no shortage of instances of sexual harassment on OC Transpo. Although the transit utility claims there were only 14 incidents reported in 2012, the above-mentioned report issued by Hollaback! (Our city, our space, our voice : A report on street harassment in Ottawa) found that a 44 per cent of the 350 survey respondents stated that they had been harassed on public transit at least once in the past year. This is a significant issue.

Tomorrow's Transit Commission meeting is supposed to include an announcement on OC Transpo's new safety plan:

It's a long overdue announcement, but hopefully that time was spent developing a plan that will demonstrate real change in OC Transpo's ability to prevent these assaults from happening as well as a more meaningful policy on responding to them.


Jade said...

I would be very, very interested in the methodology of that survey.
"A new survey released today finds 97% of respondents experienced street harassment in the past year and only 10% reported it to the authorities..."
Can you say "selection bias"?

Peter Raaymakers said...

@Jade: I'm not going to argue the merits or flaws in the Hollaback! report, but there's no denying that harassment--including sexual harassment--happens on OC Transpo buses and in their stations.

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