'You'd look good if you smiled more': Teens launch poster campaign to cut down on sexual offences on transit
VANCOUVER -- A group of teens have partnered with Metro Vancouver Transit Police for a new poster campaign meant to encourage victims and bystanders to report sexual offences on transit.
The posters are aimed at young people, and have phrases many have probably heard on transit before, showing cartoons with sayings like "Hey sweetie, what's your number?" and "You'd look good if you smiled more."
The posters also show unwanted touching, like a hand on a thigh as a bystander looks on.
Erika Hunter is one of the students from Sir Winston Churchill Secondary that pitched the idea to transit police and TransLink, then co-designed the posters, which will be on the transit system and social media for the next two months.
"There are several things that happen a lot, like groping or by verbal harassment," Hunter said, adding that she and her peers had faced many of the same experiences with harassment on transit.
"We had observed that many bystanders remain silent when incidents of assault are occurring nearby. We figured maybe if people were equipped with the knowledge of how to react to sexual crime on transit as bystanders they would be more likely to do something about it."
Poster co-designer Sakura Rashidi said, "Hopefully when riders see these ads they will understand that sexual assault can be as subtle as an inappropriate, unwanted comment or unwanted gesture, such as touching the thigh or behind."
Transit police say 212 sexual offences were reported on Metro Vancouver's transit system in 2019. But it's believed the number of incidents is likely much higher, as many incidents go unreported by both victims and witnesses.
"A lot of members of the public don't completely understand the fact that maybe a gesture or a groping is a sexual offence. But it is a sexual offence. And offenders do need to be held accountable for it," Const. Mike Yake with Metro Vancouver Transit Police said Tuesday.
He says both victims and bystanders should not hesitate to reach out to transit police, even if they aren't sure a crime has been committed. They are reachable by text at 87-77-77.
"We will investigate every incidence of sexual offences on transit," Yake said. "If you're ever wondering if you should call, or shouldn't call — text us right away."
There have been anti-sexual offence poster campaigns on transit in the past, including a project in 2018 that transit police credit with a 17 per cent increase in reporting while the ads were on the transit system.
The students behind the latest poster campaign hope their message will reach all transit users, with an emphasis on young people.
"It will hopefully catch the eye of youth more, and other bystanders will actually see a significant change in the way people behave on public transit," poster co-designer Rachel Leong said.