A woman is beaten by a man for refusing his sexual advances in a SkyTrain station in downtown Vancouver. A transgender couple feels the heat of an angry stare from the man sitting across from them on the bus. A young woman disembarks from a bus 15 blocks before her stop after a man she didn’t know repeatedly touched her thigh.
These are just a few of the hundreds of stories told on the blog, “Harassment on TransLink.” Six months ago, Simon Fraser University undergrad student Katie Nordgren and classmate Alexa Dredge created the site in an attempt to create a venue for discussion of the serious dangers for women and other gender identities who use Vancouver’s public transit system.
Nordgren will be presenting and participating in an open-forum discussion at the Associated Students Women’s Center’s upcoming event, Gendered Experiences of Urban Mobility: Creating Safe Space in Transit. The event will take place on May 6 from 6-8 p.m. in Miller Hall 138.
Nordgren connected with the Women’s Center through Elizabeth Sigurdson. When Sigurdson noticed that the blog was gaining attention at the national level in both the U.S. and Canada, they contacted Nordgren about coming to Western.
“I thought it was really awesome that the project was getting so much attention and I really wanted to bring that here and have her talk to us about it because it’s a really important issue that we need to address,” Sigurdson said.
The blog has been featured on CBC, a major Canadian television network, and Nordgren has been working with transit police in Vancouver to come up with ways to address issues of harassment. Sigurdson said that street harassment is in issue that exists throughout society.
“Street harassment is kind of everywhere, it doesn’t matter where you go, it happens to people in every public venue, including transportation, including on campus and including in dorms,” Sigurdson said. “It still happens from time to time, and it’s something that we need to pay attention to and have people share their stories and also work on ways to end the kind of harassment that goes on.”
Students will have an opportunity to share at the event. AS Women’s Center Coordinator Sara Wozniak praised Nordgren’s creative use of social media.
“I feel that social media has such a huge role in everything to do with activism now, so it seemed like a new, fresh idea to show people,” Wozniak said.
Above all, the Women’s Center hopes that students leave the event with a sense of solidarity, knowing that they’re not the only one to experience harassment and that they have the ability to confront and address those situations.
“If you see it happening, call people out or help someone out if they’re being harassed by someone else. Also, just ending the issue overall by addressing the underlying social structures that are causing this harassment to happen in our society,” Sigurdson said.