Creep Off: New text-based hotline aims to collect data on harassment in Metro Vancouver

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      A local nonprofit is asking Vancouverites to report incidences of harassment using a new text-based service that will lead to better support for women, LGBT folks, and other groups vulnerable to misconduct.

      Proposed by local anti-harassment group Good Night Out Vancouver, the initiative—dubbed Creep Off—is a two-month data-collection process that will help the volunteer-led organization and other stakeholders map trends in where and how people are experiencing harassment, and what forms of harassment they are being subject to.

      To use the service, residents are encouraged to save the number 778-800-3822 to their cellular phones. After witnessing or experiencing misconduct, they’re asked to text “creep off” to the hotline, which will set off an automated chain of four questions asking for details about the nature and general location of the incident.  

      Users will also be asked about their age, identity, and gender to help determine the demographics of participants. All submissions are anonymous. In addition, GNO’s nightlife street team will employ the service to report harassment on the Granville strip during their patrol hours.  

      Good Night Out Vancouver

      In August, GNO will analyze the data so that it, and other relevant organizations in Metro Vancouver, can create and better tailor their programs to help those being most affected by harassment. “The purpose of it is two-fold,” Stacey Forrester, coordinator at GNO, tells the Straight by phone. “One is to selfishly give us some data, and two is to see if people would use something like this.”

      Creep Off should not be employed in cases of emergencies, Forrester stresses. Rather, it is a data-collection tool for “sub-criminal” incidences of harassment like catcalling and verbal slurs that may be rooted in sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, slut-shaming, and other types of discrimination.

      Developed by local digital-outreach program WelTel and funded by the UBC Centre for Community Engaged Learning’s 2018 Innovation Grant, Creep Off was initiated when Forrester noted that there was no existing tool that tracked harassment in Canada. In fact, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women released a report last year recommending that a user-friendly, private service be created.

      At the very least, Forrester hopes Creep Off will help stakeholders understand the prevalence and nature of harassment in the region.

      “Our [GNO’s] lens is harassment connected to live music and nightlife. However, we are continuously told in the city that it’s not a problem,” she says. “So some hard, concrete data will help legitimize our projects, and support other service groups or antiviolence groups that are doing similar work that need data.”