The fifth annual Women’s Safety Fair took place at SFU Harbour Centre on October 5, and was hosted by the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) as well as other community agencies.
The event was comprised of several dialogue-based activities, including community discussions on women’s safety, a VPD Women’s Personal Safety team demonstration, a Transit Police safety presentation, and information booths on women’s safety.
“The dangers that women face are unique. It’s not OK for [them] to feel uncomfortable,” said Ben Stevens, VPD Detective Constable and one of the event organizers. “This event gets that message out to the community and offers a one-stop shop for services they can access.”
For instance, as many students are daily users of the public transit system, Constable Bruce Shipley of the Metro Vancouver Transit Police Services talked about TransLink’s new emergency text line, 87-77-77. This is a discreet means of reporting criminal behaviour on transit, in comparison to pressing the yellow silent alarm. “We need to educate people on what resources we have,” said Shipley. “So many people still don’t know what we as transit police do.”
In addition to police departments, non-profits such as Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW) and BC211, among many others, were also present to speak about the support they can offer to women and survivors of sexual violence.
“We provide counselling, support, a 24-hour crisis line, hospital accompaniment for survivors. We always give women agency on whether they choose to report an assault or not, [and] offer them the option of reporting through a third party as well,” said Ashley Teja, a victims services worker at WAVAW.
Kaitlin Warren, a representative from BC211, a non-profit funded in partnership with United Way, also mentioned that they offer a 24-hour phone line for referrals to community and social services.
The event didn’t lack in SFU presence, either. Organizations like the SFU Women’s Centre and Consent Matters SFU also had representatives at the event. Leah Horlick, the SFU Women’s Centre coordinator said of the event, “More than just women’s safety, I’m interested in ending the systems that perpetuate violence against women. I think it’s important today to have all these support organizations together so we can connect about the work that we do and build more of a capacity [for it].”
Hosting the fair at the university also brought up discussion about institutional change on the issue of sexual assault, and what students could do to bring about that change. “We want to know how institutions are holding perpetrators [of sexual assault] accountable,” said Teja. “It’s important to have dialogue with other organizations, as it gives us an opportunity to change the narrative.”