LONDON, ONT. -- Women sharing their experiences of sexual violence has allowed researchers to paint a clearer picture of where women feel unsafe in London.

City Hall has released the 2021-2024 Safe Cities Action Plan that examines the scope of sexual violence against women and strategies to eradicate it in public spaces.

“There’s a lot of great work already happening in the community,” says Rosanna Wilcox, Director, Service, Innovation and Performance at city hall. “So (we’re) finding ways to determine how does this work get prioritized?”

In 2018, women were asked to identify public locations in London where they felt safe and unsafe.

The scoping study also included the unique perspectives of Indigenous women, newcomer women, disabled women, and LGBTQ2+ women.

Over a six month period, 1825 unique ‘pins’ were placed on an online map as locations where women witnessed or experienced sexual violence, or felt safe.

The most common locations where women felt unsafe were:

• In transit

• Parks/paths/green spaces

• Residential areas

• Local businesses

• Downtown

• Nightlife entertainment spaces

• Campus/school

• Workplaces

• Online

The data was used to create a heat map which identifies geographic locations, but women also identified public transit and online forums as locations they feel unsafe.

Downtown London and Western University’s campus were areas of more frequently identified violence, insufficient data was obtained at Fanshawe College.

Anova’s AnnaLise Trudell says the heat map’s identification of Western’s campus and the downtown confirms what’s been learned in other jurisdictions.

“The age that is most likely to experience this (sexual violence), and the age that is most engaged in nightlife intersect in London in really concrete ways,” explains Trudell.

Conversely, women feel safest where there is lighting, policing, individuals to intervene, and social norms are followed.

Co-chaired by the City of London and Anova, the Safe Cities Advisory Committee has developed an action plan to address the violence identified in the scoping study.

There are three areas of focus:

• Social Norms

• Policy and Practice

• Collaboration

The 15 specific strategies and expected outcomes can be found in the report.

Initiatives include coordinating ‘bystander training’ with local bars, engaging men as allies in ending sexual violence, and raising awareness of supports and services in the community.

So far, there are no financial costs associated with implementing the action plan.

Trudell emphasizes that a community-wide effort is already developing to eradicate sexual violence against women.

“Bars can make that happen. LTC can make that happen, and so can Western.”