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Are Women Ever Safe?

By Celeste Houle

Concordia University's Sir George Williams Campus - Photo courtesy of Concordia University

Recently, there has been a wave of young women who are being targeted and approached by male strangers who seem to have intentions beyond a simple encounter. In the past few weeks, young women in Montreal have taken to social media to voice their stories regarding this worrisome situation. This movement has gained an extensive audience, reaching out to women all throughout Montreal and urging them to take a stand and to be cautious.

When a stranger approached McGill student Viveca Lee at the Eaton Center asking her to go for coffee, she felt uncomfortable but otherwise did not think more about their interaction. However, when a second man approached her only two days later with an invitation that followed almost the same script as the previous man, she began to feel unsafe.

After having seen a video posted by Concordia student Lisa Komlos on her Instagram profile addressing a very similar case, Lee decided to report the incidents to McGill University. Indeed, Komlos had also been harassed by two men, both of whom did not seem to be Concordia students, who proposed nearly identical offers.

Concordia announced that it would increase security measures after Komlos’ video began gathering thousands of shares and many female students came forward with their own stories, showing support for one another. Following the #MeToo movement, there seems to have been a shift in people’s perception of harassment and sexual assault. Once again, social media served as a weapon against the problematic situations harming women.

Dawson student Julia Dumontier-Larochelle admitted to having a similar uncomfortable experience. One afternoon at around 4 o’clock, Dumontier-Larochelle was preparing to get off the metro at Place-des-Arts station, desperately trying to make her way out through the mass of people. A man moved to make way for her to pass by, leading Julia to believe he was not going to get off at that metro station. Eventually getting off the metro, she made her way on Bleury Street.

Only a few moments later, she found the stranger who had let her pass on the metro a few minutes earlier on the same street as her. According to Julia, he was between thirty to forty years old and was trying to talk to her. “He told me that he liked my style and wanted to get to know me better,” she said. Julia then accelerated her steps but he insisted, asking why she did not want to cooperate with him. “He only left when I said no for the third time,” she explained, adding that she made her way to Saint-Catherine Street, where she knew there would be a crowd.

She recalled “not feeling well” during the rest of the day and “constantly looking behind her shoulder,” as if the danger was still imminent. It was the first time that she had had as direct a contact with a stranger who would not leave her alone, although she can attest to a number of times where she had felt observed in the metro or public spaces by men who were strangers to her.

“Almost every girl I know has a story of this sort to tell - where they get approached by older men in an inappropriate way,” Dumontier-Larochelle said. Indeed, these “incidents” occur far too often and seem to be bigger issue than what people initially thought, which leads to the burning question: are women ever safe from these harassments? Or must we continue to speak out in the face of such injustices?


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