eva bc

New Feminist Apps Tackle Dating Violence, Street Harassment

notyourbabyby Jarrah Hodge

Back in 2011 Gender Focus contributor Roxanna Bennett reported on YWCA Canada’s Safety Siren app, which gave women and girls a way to use their smart phones to learn about dating violence and easily send an emergency signal if ever in danger.

Now, other Canadian non-profits are adapting our new technology to give young women new, on-the-spot tools to fight violence and harassment.

Toronto non-profit METRAC (Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children) launched their “Not Your Baby” app last fall after they heard many people saying they didn’t know how to deal with harassment on the spot. The app provides a technological solution to help people as they experience harassment. People using the app select where they are and what kind of harassment they are experiencing and the app pops up helpful suggestions. Users can also submit their own suggestions for how to deal with these kinds of difficult situations.

METRAC Communications Director Andrea Gunraj told me that over 250 people responded to their survey in the lead-up to creating the app: “We found that people had a diversity of responses depending on the context and situation of the harassment. I learned a lot reading peoples’ comments and stories and felt that ideas on dealing with harassment at school were so smart, especially when it’s not easy to make a complaint or the person harassing you is a friend.”

Gunraj is pleased by the media coverage and positive feedback they’ve had so far. Being out there alongside other campaigns like Hollaback! and Stop Street Harassment, Gunraj is optimistic that more people are becoming aware of harassment as an issue, but warns “we have a long way to go before harassment is seen as unacceptable in any space – street, home, work, malls, public transit, and so on. There is still the idea that some people are ‘fair game’ for harassment just by virtue of who they are.”

Another new initiative has come out of BC, where the Ending Violence Association has partnered with Telus on an app for women who are at a high risk of violence. The SOS Response app is being piloted in Prince George, Courtenay, Terrace, Vernon and Surrey. Local assistance programs in those communities are identifying at-risk women and providing them with a phone with the app installed. The app is very simple for a woman in crisis to use. All she has to do is press a button and the phone takes 30 photos in 30 seconds, which are sent to the security monitoring centre along with GPS information.

“The SOS mobile monitored alarm app is an easy-to-use, cost-efficient tool that will increase safety for women across Canada who are fleeing violence,” said Tracy Porteous, Executive Director of EVA BC. “The program is also a great example of community and business working together in the most positive of ways.”

Of course,these kinds of apps aren’t enough in and of themselves. As Gunraj told me about “Not My Baby”, “It’s a simple app and not an end-all solution, but it’s just one way of broadening the dialogue.”  If new technology can be leveraged in this way to give useful information and help women and girls feel safer and more empowered in their space, that’s a huge step in the right direction.


Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism 1 Comment

BC Lions Urge Men to “Be More Than a Bystander” to end Violence Against Women

by Jarrah Hodge

When dealing with issues around male  violence against women, how do we get messages out to men and boys? The Ending Violence Association of BC is putting part of their focus on having role models speak out, partnering with the BC Lions for the “Be More Than a Bystander” Campaign.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, EVA BC is a provincial umbrella organization that works on behalf of 240 front line programs. They provide support, information on complex cases, training and resource development, and more. The Bystander campaign features BC Lions football players using their status to speak out against domestic violence.

Although some feminists might be leery of men being spokespeople on this issue, it should be noted the campaign is guided by an advisory group of women experts on violence against women.

I did an email interview with EVA BC’s Executive Director Tracy Porteous to learn more about how she thinks the campaign is doing in its second year now.

What gave you the idea to partner with the BC Lions for More Than a Bystander?

I, and many others in the field of violence against women, had long been thinking we needed more men to speak up. I thought we needed sports stars because they were icons and role models to men and boys so we approached the BC Lions…From that first meeting on, the Lions were in and we built this groundbreaking, never-been-done-as-big-anywhere-in-the-world initiative!

The power of this campaign is that we are engaging men in positive ways, not as potential abusers, but as bystanders who see these attitudes every day and who can act as allies, agents for positive change, and who have the power to speak up to prevent violence and to change attitudes. We know that the vast majority of men do not use violence against women and so imagine the difference that can be made if the vast majority of men who don’t commit violence began to be more than bystanders and speak up to the minority that do!

We give bystanders a multitude of options – always with an emphasis on personal safety – in hopes that people will be more likely to respond rather than be silent or passive in the face of abusive or violent situations. Something we want people to take from this campaign is that being a bystander means different things depending on the situation, on whether the perpetrator is known to you or is a stranger, etc. And so we provide ideas something for how to respond in these very different types of situations. Read more

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