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In 2022, researchers from UQAM collaborated with the Centre d’éducation et d’action des femmes [Education and Action Centre for Women] to publish the first study assessing the extent of street harassment in Montreal (Courcy et al., 2022). Many of its findings are concerning: 65.3% of the 3,300 participants reported having experienced street harassment, and certain groups reported even higher rates, including youth (82%), sexually diverse people (75%), gender diverse people (84%), and women (69%).
This study quantified young people’s experiences, particularly those that occurred during the waves of denunciations during the #MeToo movement. Higher rates of victimization among youths can be explained by the fact that they are more likely to travel on foot, bicycle, or public transit than other age groups. According to Courcy and their colleagues (2022), at all times of the day, the places where street harassment is most prevalent are streets, parks, buses, the metro, and parking lots.
Most street harassment campaigns—each as important as the last—have generally placed witnesses and/or victims at the centre of their messages. Our team chose a fresh perspective and aimed the message toward the harassers by identifying specific behaviours that constitute street harassment: leers, whistles, degrading insults, and intrusive questions.
The primary goal of this initiative is to raise collective awareness of the issue of street harassment in Montreal, and thus to contribute to reducing violent behaviour.
Given that the campaign calls out actions that take place on the street, public posters seemed like a natural means of raising awareness. Selecting various locations that tend to be busy in December allow us to reach the target audience, especially near the Bell Centre, where approximately 10,000 to 15,000 people per event gather in downtown’s main arteries.
Radio and social media were added as complementary channels to reach our target audience during their commute.
Unlike road signs, which ensure street users’ safety, street harassment greatly undermines people’s feelings of safety while roaming the city.
The campaign’s concept therefore revolves around the textual and graphic codes used in the world of construction and road signs. Trompe-l’oeil posters and a radio advertisement imitating the tone typically used in traffic reports will not go unnoticed!
The campaign’s “detour” image is particularly promising: vulnerable people are used to changing their route to avoid potential threats when they fear for their safety.
The line “If we take detours to avoid you, it’s because you’re crossing the line” is at the forefront of the campaign and clearly places the harassers at the heart of both the message and the solution.