BRITISH COLUMBIA

'Harassment On TransLink' Questions Metro Vancouver Women's Safety

10/25/2013 03:01 EDT | Updated 02/11/2014 10:59 EST

Being sexually harassed on public transit is an ongoing problem for a worryingly large number of Metro Vancouver women, according to the shocking accounts detailed on a new website.

"Harassment on TransLink" was started by SFU students Katie Nordgren and Alexa Dredge as a project for a third-year gender, sexuality and women's studies course, but its creators hope it will go beyond that and alert both TransLink and the City of Vancouver about the issue of safety on public transit.

The website invites people to share their experience of unwanted gender-based attention on the transit system. Testimonies detail an alarming number of incidents of groping, men exposing themselves and rubbing themselves up against women on crowded buses and trains. There are also many entries where women describe feeling anything from uncomfortable to outright scared by unwanted attention or advances.

"It doesn’t necessarily look like sexual harassment, but it’s a whole lot of not taking ‘no’ for an answer from women who are not interested in having a chat or going on a date," Nordgren told The Georgia Straight.

"Harassment on TransLink" has dozens of disturbing stories. One 15-year-old girl writes that a man groped her while she was on a field trip.

A 31-year-old woman details an encounter on the SkyTrain when a man asked her where she was going and whether he could go home with her.

He later followed her off the train and on to the bus that was taking her home. She disembarked 15 stops early and walked.

Nordgren told CBC News that the stories have overwhelmed and disturbed her.

"I knew that this was a problem. I knew that this was a reality for women, but the stories we've been getting are blowing my mind," she said.

Metro Vancouver Transit Police spokesperson Anne Drennan told the Straight that the force takes sexual harassment very seriously, but added they're concerned that people are not reporting incidents.

"It’s great to see people being encouraged to tell their stories," she said. "That’s cathartic, right? But we want them to tell us.”

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