Reported by Kristen Holliday
Offenders may not realize that sexually touching another person without consent is deemed assault and more action and education is needed according to Metro Vancouver Transit Police.
In a press conference held Tuesday morning, representatives from the VPD, Transit Police and Barwatch unveiled the VPD’s Hands Off! campaign. Posters will be put up in restaurants, bars, and on public transit as part of the campaign. The posters are designed to remind people that any sexual contact without consent is a sexual assault.
Anecdotal evidence from women and victims
Sexual assault is a long-time problem for workers and patrons in the food and beverage industry, according to Kendra Belsheim, a representative for Barwatch.
Barwatch is an alliance of bars, restaurants, and clubs in downtown Vancouver and along the Granville strip that will create a blacklist of gropers caught in the act as part of the campaign.
“Every single girl I know or who has worked for me in the past 10 years has had some sort of experience to report,” Belsheim said.
Increasing numbers, increasing concerns
Transit Police Sgt. Clint Hampton said the instances of groping and unwanted touching continue to be an issue on public transit. The Transit Police’s 2018 public report shows a 2.6 per cent increase in reported sex offences, from 265 occurring in 2017 to 272 in 2018.
Numbers provided from the Vancouver Police Department show their officers investigated 174 reports of unwanted sexual contact in public places since January 2018. The Metro Vancouver Transit Police have investigated another 75 incidents that have occurred on public transit.
“We often hear the words rubbing, groping, and fondling used,” Hampton said. “Offenders need to realize these are all sexual assaults, and a sexual assault has a very real, negative, and lasting impact on the victim.”
“As a police agency, we are concerned by the number of sexual assaults that continue to happen,” said VPD media spokesperson Sgt. Steve Addison. “No person should have to tolerate this kind of behaviour and we will use every resource we have to investigate and form criminal charges.”
“Despite our constant efforts to reduce instances of groping, these continue to be a serious issue,” Hampton said.