Getting home safely as a woman still isn’t guaranteed

Until changes are made, it’s important to know how to stay as safe as possible

Tips to stay safe when using a ridesharing service alone.

This article discusses sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers. The Kingston Sexual Assault Centre’s 24-hour crisis and support phone line can be reached at 613-544-6424 / 1-800-544-6424.

As a woman, getting home safe after a night out is often a major cause of concern.

I’ve only been in an Uber alone four times. Though I had no issues, I was on high alert every ride, ensuring the driver followed the route on his phone and analyzing our small talk for any red flags.

This is the norm for women all over the world—and we have reason for concern.

In 2018, there were over 3,000 reports of sexual assault during Uber rides in the United States alone. In addition, from 2017 to 2019, Lyft received over 4,000 reports of sexual assaults in the U.S.

As Queen’s students would know, even our small Kingston community presents women with obstacles to getting home safely. Walking down Princess Street after a night out can come with uncomfortable stares and scary conversations.

In fact, a survey from Statistics Canada in 2019 found the majority of women in postsecondary who experienced sexual assault had an incident occur off-campus.

According to another survey in 2018, Queen’s had one of the highest rates of sexual harassment in the province. It seems like we can’t feel safe walking alone in our own city, on our own campus, or using other forms of transportation.

Until meaningful changes are made, it’s important to know how to stay safe when using a ridesharing service alone.

Request your ride while inside so you aren’t waiting alone on the sidewalk and double-check the licence plate and the car make and model before approaching.

Always ask the driver who they are there to pick up—instead of offering up your name—and make sure to sit in the back seat. Letting a friend or family member know where you are is a great idea as well.

On public transportation, make sure to catch your bus or train from somewhere well-lit, and check the arrival times so you don’t have to wait outside alone for too long. Sit away from others and be aware of your surroundings.

Men, help make sure your friends arrive home safely. When you can, ride with them on public transportation or offer to share an Uber with them.

If you see a woman looking uncomfortable, ask her if she’s okay or get some help. Call out other men for their inappropriate behaviour—don’t be a bystander.

Ridesharing companies also need to do better. They complete basic background checks on their drivers, but clearly that isn’t enough. Some are calling for cameras in every car, and I think that’s a necessary step to make individuals feel safer on their trips as well as to hold their drivers accountable.

These ‘safer’ alternatives to walking home alone don’t feel safe to many women.

Women deserve to feel safe when going home alone. However, it will take a lot of work until we can get into an Uber or onto public transport at night without feeling anxious.


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