Bus ads accused of shaming sex assault victims
Ads encouraging people to report sexual assaults on Metro Vancouver transit are being pulled after riders complained they cast shame on victims.
The ads are part of a Transit Police campaign urging sexual assault victims or witnesses to report the crimes using its text messaging service.
“If it doesn’t feel right, then it’s wrong. Not reporting sexual assault is the real shame,” they read.
Vancouver artist Anoushka Ratnarajah spotted one of the ads and shared it on Instagram, accusing police of victim-blaming those who don’t speak up.
“Maybe you should spend less time making survivors feel like s*** on their morning commute,” she wrote.
Transit Police spokeswoman Anne Drennan confirmed the ads, which went up late last week, have already generated more than a dozen complaints from the public.
“We feel sick about this,” Drennan said. “When people started to write to us and tell us what they saw, we realized right away that there certainly is another way of looking at it.”
Drennan said the offending wording will be removed within three or four days and replaced with new messaging approved by the Transit Police Chief’s Advisory Council, which includes representatives from women’s support groups.
“It was never our intention to lay any kind of blame on the victims of sexual assaults or sexual offences, rather to indicate that it’s an extreme shame that the suspects get away with these offences in large part because so many of them are never reported,” she said.
There have been about 50 transit-related sex offences reported so far this year in Metro. Riders can discreetly report incidents by texting 87-77-77, but are encouraged to call 911 if possible for crimes where someone's personal safety is at risk.