Canada

Petition to prevent violence against women in downtown Barrie gains traction

A petition calling for the prevention of violence against women and girls in downtown Barrie, Ont., is making its rounds and has garnered nearly 700 signatures so far.

Some of its key demands include installing lighting and convex mirrors in alleyways so people can see if they’re being followed, as well as having security or law enforcement officers present in local construction zones.

Read more: Shelters on the front lines help women flee violence — but they’re also in crisis

Jasmine Botter, 24, started the petition after she and a friend were harassed and assaulted while walking in downtown Barrie one afternoon about a month ago.

“It was like 3 o’clock, and as soon as we turned onto Dunlop Street, we had a man approach us, and he kept asking us to hang out and we kept politely declining,” Botter told Global News.

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“The situation escalated to a point where he just shoved his phone in my face and said, ‘Enter your number.’ So at that point, I just wanted to get the situation over with as quickly as I knew how, so I entered a fake number.”

Then, out of nowhere, Botter said, the man hugged her and kissed her on the head before running off.

“I just felt so deeply disturbed,” she added. “It was such an invasion of my personal space, especially during COVID.”

Botter and her friend continued walking before another man started following them about 10 minutes later, yelling at the two women to turn around.

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They kept walking before they came to a dead end in a construction zone, at which point a construction worker told them they have to turn around.

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“We said, ‘OK, well, we’re being followed and harassed by a man and we don’t really want to turn back that way,'” Botter said. “This construction worker then took us and escorted us to a ‘safer place.’ We really did try to enjoy the rest of the afternoon, but we were just so deeply disturbed.”

That was the tipping point for Botter, who then started to do her research, trying to find a solution to the problem in downtown Barrie.

Her research informed the petition, which also demands for the city to conduct women’s safety audits that promote women’s participation in identifying dangers in downtown Barrie. It also calls for establishing an anti-harassment awareness campaign and extending public WiFi to cover the city’s downtown core.

Read more: Limiting information about violence against women is dangerous — here’s why

“Right now, the City of Barrie has released its drafted official plan, which outlines their plans for building the city into the future into 2041,” Botter said. “I would definitely like to see these safety measures put into the plan before the feedback period for [when] that plan is closed.”

The 24-year-old said her petition has already gained the attention of Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman, as well as some members of city council.

However, she said she’s also received a lot of backlash from those who don’t believe that violence against women is a big deal.

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“I think it’s really important to educate the public on the fact that it is a big deal and why it is a big deal,” Botter said.

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