The Women's Danger Index is an online resource for travellers planning a trip abroad. Using statistics on sexual violence and gender equality, as well as testimony from women, the site ranks tourist-heavy countries based on their degree of safety for women.
The Index ranks Canada the #8 safest country. Strikingly, however, the Index also makes note of the high rates of non-partner sexual violence against women despite the country's relatively strong performance in other categories.
It should be noted that the ranking does not account for statistics relating to the safety of genderqueer or gender non-conforming individuals.
Given this alarming rate of sexual violence in Canada, and to explore this subject more locally, MTL Blog correspondent Ariel Lefkowitz took to the streets of Montreal to ask women about their perception of their own safety in the city.
She also spoke with Marina Boulos, executive director of the Chez Doris women's day shelter, who offerend her own professional insight on the subject.
Watch that video below:
As Lefkowitz importantly points out, safety for women, specifically, in any urban context depends on a number of intersecting identities and conditions, including age, race, sex worker status, and living situation.
One Chez Doris client who is currently homeless, told Lefkowitz that she "[doesn't] feel safe anymore. Being homeless, I became more of a target."
A majority of women interviewed stated tentatively that they do feel safe in Montreal "for the most part," as one interviewee put it.
When asked specifically about safety at night, more women admitted to feeling exposed to danger or threat.
"No definitely not," one woman of colour responded to the question of nighttime security.
"I generally feel safe at night if I'm with a group of people. I don't know if I'd walk alone downtown at night," another stated.
Boulos, for her part, recommends "[staying] together in packs as opposed to being alone" when it comes to nighttime travel.
The Montreal police also have suggestions on how to avoid possibly dangerous situations and what to do in case of assault:
"Choose well-lit streets and parking areas."
"Avoid alleyways, especially if you are alone."
"If you are a woman and you have to take the bus after dark, use the Between Stops service offered by the Montréal transit corporation (STM)." This service allows women to request that buses drop them off closer to their destinations than designated bus stops.
"If you are attacked, do not resist unless you need to fight for your life."
Lefkowitz makes the critical point, however, that too often, language on assault prevention puts complete onous on victims, especially women.
In truth, the end of the epidemic of assault will require the participation of men and an investment in harm reduction, consent training, and sexual education.
Stay tuned for more news.