Joanna Chiu, Canadian journalist, recently shared an experience of witnessing sexual harassment on a flight via Twitter, sparking a discussion on the role of bystanders. You can read the full thread below which includes an excellent resource created by BWSS on what bystanders can do when someone is being sexually harassed on public transportation. Joanna also wrote about the experience in the Vancouver Star and spoke to Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director at BWSS, about what people can do as bystanders when they witness harassment on public transportation. “Ask the woman, ‘Are they bothering you?,’ loudly saying ‘ugh, that is so gross,’ making eye contact with some other bystanders and ask, ‘What should we do to help?’ Often people don’t know what to do”.
Despite the high levels of incidents, sexual harassment remains mainly unreported. That’s why, as Angela notes, “…People might think ‘It’s not my problem, it’s not a big deal.’ It comes from the fact that a lot of this behaviour is so normalized and we’ve only just started to address this publicly on social media”.
At BWSS, we don’t believe that harassment is an unavoidable part of our daily commute. We believe that we must be able to move about and occupy the public space without being placed in danger or threatened. It’s a fundamental freedom. Safe public transportation is about recognizing our experiences and needs.
We all have the right to feel safe. Let’s make this a priority.