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Alone and scared in the city?

Edmonton’s streets can be mean and lonely
for a woman walking at night
Editor’s notebook
By Nikita Case

I HAVE BEEN LUCKY; I have been hassled but never assaulted by men. But I shouldn’t have to be lucky to avoid harassment or threats when I’m walking the streets alone at night.

Nevertheless, it’s true: I have been lucky.

The kidnap and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who was simply walking home from work in London, prompted me to write my feelings as a woman in the city. That feeling of uneasiness is there, especially when I’m walking in the city alone in the early morning or late evening. After taking the bus home in the evening class, I have curled my hand into a fist with my car keys protruding, a makeshift weapon, just to walk to my car in the Bethel Station in Sherwood Park, where the crime rate is far lower than in Edmonton.

To clear it up for everybody, verbal forms of sexual harassment include catcalls, whistles, and suggestive comments. It also includes physical and cyber harassment – and sexual assault. Until I read this definition, I thought I’d never experienced harassment, but I have in the form of catcalls and whistles while running in leggings and a sports bra in the city.

When women experience harassment or assault, the perpetrator is almost always a man, but most men are good men. It’s a small percentage that establish the statistics, that make it seem as if males are natural-born predators.  And that’s not to say men don’t occasionally face the same threats. It;’s just that, for a woman, it’s almost an everyday occurrence.

Stop Street Harassment recently launched a survey on sexual harassment, which revealed that 81 per cent of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment, compared to just 43 per cent of men. The locations of women’s harassment are chilling. Most women  –  66 per cent – have been sexually harassed in public spaces, by touching and groping. The second-most common location is the workplace, with 35 per cent.

Edmonton’s history of sexual harassment statistics show why so many women have experienced harassment and assault.

In 2015, The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives ranked Edmonton as the second worst place to live in the country for women. Three years later, the Edmonton Community Foundation released its annual Vital Signs Report, focusing on issues impacting women. The report revealed that the city’s police-reported sexual assault rate per 100,000 people was 72, the second highest in Canada after Winnipeg. Across Canada, the rate was 58 per 100,000.

In 2019, a survey found one in three Canadian women suffered from unwanted sexual attention in public. One shouldn’t have to be lucky to avoid harassment or assault. Women shouldn’t have to feel nervous walking the streets in the evening, or expect unwanted attention when they’re out for a run – regardless of what they’re wearing.

Women should be able to feel comfortable in public – but Edmonton has a long way to go before we can feel safe.

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