The Toronto Star published staggering numbers it obtained from the Toronto police through a freedom of information request, indicating that sexual assault occurs frequently on the TTC. While troubling, it’s not entirely surprising.
Fully, 94% of sexual assaults go unreported. The TPS’s records show that it receives reports of sexual assault happening on the TTC twice a week. According to the Star, that averages “almost one every three days”. So we can assume the incidence of sexual assaults on the TTC, and everywhere, is greater than the TPS’s figures.
The TPS’s records show that it receives reports of sexual assault happening on the TTC twice a week.
The TTC’s numbers are slightly lower since those harmed by sexual violence won’t necessarily report immediately, if at all. When they do report to police after the fact, they might not go back to the TTC to let officials there know, according to Susan Sperling, the TTC’s Manager of Corporate Communications.
“The numbers are extremely upsetting and disconcerting to us. As you can imagine, we take sexual assaults very, very seriously and we are of the opinion that one incident is too many,” Sperling said, adding that the onus can no longer be on women and others who face assault.
“Certainly there are things that we do, and things that people can do to protect themselves. But really at the end of the day, these are sexual predators who really need to not do this.”
Many in survivor communities are frustrated and feel like they have heard it all before. It only makes sense to feel a lack of trust in the institutions that we’re told at a young age are there to protect us and will help us.
For so many of us—disproportionately women, people of colour, Indigenous peoples, LGBT people, differently abled people—that promise is shattered time and time again.
“In my experience, sexual assault on the TTC is treated like it is everywhere else; like it doesn’t matter and nothing will be done about it even if reported.”
“In my experience, sexual assault on the TTC is treated like it is everywhere else; like it doesn’t matter and nothing will be done about it even if reported,” Deb Singh of the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape said in an email to Vv Magazine.
Sperling said the TTC has implemented a number of initiatives to curb the frequency of sexual assaults on public transit. These include transit enforcement officers throughout stations, cameras on TTC vehicles and well lit designated waiting areas with intercoms at subway stations.
Sperling also mentioned something called the request stop program, which is an initiative brought forward by METRAC, a not-for-profit organization that works to shift policy for survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
“Sexual violence is a systemic problem that happens everywhere in our city. It happens at home, it happens on the street, in school, in religious organizations, in health care, in sports, and in government. So it happens everywhere, including the transit system,” Gabrielle Ross-Marquette, METRAC’s communications coordinator said.
Ross-Marquette said the new numbers can be useful as a means of mobilizing people, but that at the end of the day, the take home is about much more than numbers.
“Let’s go beyond the numbers and think, okay if it’s that bad on the TTC, then let’s think about where else it’s bad, and come up with solutions as a society that target gender-based violence,” Ross-Marquette said. She added that it’s equally important to pay attention to who is most often targeted, and why.
“That’s all embedded not only in sexism but also in racism and ableism and all of the oppression and isms that you can think about, that’s where violence stems. So how can we address kind of all of those issues? I think it’s through education. It’s through prevention and engaging with the problem instead of ignoring it,” Ross-Marquette said.
So are the TTC and TPS doing enough to address this?
“That’s always in discussion because obviously, that’s something that is of concern to us. We want people to be able to travel freely around the city using the public transit so that’s something that we’re always discussing with the TTC, in terms of ways in which we can make it safer working together,” Constable Allyson Douglas-Cook said.
Douglas-Cook said police generally believe survivors and disagreed when I said police are known to meet survivors with skepticism. Others maintain that things are slowly improving.
Douglas-Cook said police generally believe survivors and disagreed when I said police are known to meet survivors with skepticism.
“I think we’re always moving towards the better, because of high profile incidents, because of discourse in the media, because survivors have been very courageous and vocal, so hopefully we’re going to keep going in that direction,” Ross-Marquette said.
Do you think enough is being done to prevent sexual assault on the TTC? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below, or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.