Results from a social media survey conducted by the Sexual Assault Centre and Women's Community House found that London Transit Commission (LTC) bus routes servicing students see the highest number of sexual assault incidents.
The survey was released in late January and posted on the Sexual Assault Centre's Facebook and Twitter accounts asking about individual's experiences with sexual violence on public transit. On behalf of the centre, AnnaLise Trudell, program co-ordinator, had organized and compiled the social media survey results.
“We had a couple of clients and survivors at our centre who told our counsellors that they were experiencing or had experienced sexual assault on buses,” said Trudell. “They voiced that they wanted to know if that was happening to other people beyond them and whether any changes needed to happen on the buses because of it.”
Respondents were asked whether they have ever experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault or threats of sexual assault on London’s city buses. If any of the previous questions were answered with a yes, respondents were asked to select the bus routes on which the events had occurred. The survey did not ask what times the event occurred and recorded no demographic data.
According to Trudell, 329 responses were collected with 122 of those disclosing that they had experienced harassment and 44 experienced assault on public transit. Of the bus routes analyzed, six lines had significantly higher incidences than the rest with three of them servicing student populations of Western and Fanshawe. The 2 bus route was found to have the highest rate at 36 per cent.
“This can’t be entirely representational — chances are that you filled it out when you were more likely to have experienced some form of violence,” acknowledged Trudell.
LTC general manager Kelly Paleczny met with Trudell on Monday to discuss the survey’s findings. Trudell expressed that she was pleased to hear about LTC’s efforts for increased safety.
One of the measures that the LTC currently has in place is the ability for courtesy stops. If a rider is feeling unsafe, they can ask the driver to stop the bus at any time. All buses also have audio and visual recordings of activities that can be requested for retrieval if a rider has experienced assault. However, Trudell says these features are not well known.
The LTC began a review of their safety and security program in 2016. Paleczny expects that an update will be introduced in the spring of 2017, ensuring LTC's priority to provide riders with a secure transit experience.
“The updated program will not focus solely on sexual assault, but rather on all aspects of the transit experience and the various issues that could give rise to a customer feeling unsafe,” stated Paleczny in an email.
Jean-Claude Aubin, operational leader of campus police, said that all sexual violence incidences on the LTC are reported to London Police Services as most buses operate off-campus.
“We have always advised students, safety-wise, if there are any suspicious persons, any acts that are uncomfortable, the next step is to call the police right away and report it,” said Aubin. “Any instance of sexual violence is unacceptable.”
The survey has sparked a concern amongst students and their safety. Jamie Cleary, University Students’ Council vice-president, believes that both the University community and the city of London must take on a proactive role in bystander intervention.
“This also highlights not only issues with the LTC but overall the culture of the London community,” said Cleary. “It is important that we begin to look into ways for us to showcase an environment where we are tolerant and embracing.”
Cleary says that he is excited to see what the LTC will do with the information as they move forward.
In the future, Trudell hopes that there will be a sense of accountability with the LTC. She emphasizes that bus safety shouldn’t only be about physical safety, but also about a personal sense of safety.