‘Spoiled by men’: Public safety of women, gender diverse people revealed

Locations across Victoria remain unsafe for women and gender diverse people, a new report shows.

A collaboration between Monash University’s XYX Lab and digital consultancy CrowdSpot, the YourGround Victoria report highlights the importance of lighting and green space as well as the challenges of public transport and streetscapes.  

The report provides insights into how to make public spaces safer and more inclusive for women and gender diverse people.

It was launched on Wednesday night by Lily D’Ambrosio, Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change.

More than 6,000 public submissions from women and gender diverse people detailed their experiences at locations across the state between April and July 2021.

“I have experienced a number of times on Bridge Road cars slowing down to honk or yell at me while I am exercising alone,” said a respondent regarding Richmond. 

“[It] is one of very few lit and populated [East–West] direct passages in the area, and it’s stressful that even this is spoiled by men as a safe exercise option.”

Parks and other green spaces, such as trails and beaches, were identified as major locations for exercise and leisure; all were considered safer places for these than streets, where 92% of pins placed were deemed unsafe places. 

Poor lighting was the main reason for places to be deemed unsafe – including over-lighting.

“This shared path is great during the day, but as a pedestrian at night, it is scary as the lighting is so bright along the path, you can’t see any other parts of the park and therefore can’t see people from a distance,” said a respondent of Clifton Park in Brunswick.

LGBTIQ+ people, people with a disability, migrants, and refugees were much more likely to report problematic behaviour of others, suggesting a higher level of public discrimination against these groups.

Respondents with a disability identified the greatest safety concerns with the conditions of paths, access, and appropriate facilities. 

They also recorded higher levels of experiencing verbal abuse, aggression, and harassment.

“Gender inequality in our society is an overarching factor impacting on the safety of women and gender diverse people, and as a result, they experience public places differently from men,” said Dr Nicole Kalms, Co-Director of XYX Labs. 

“Often the stress and anxiety around safety when exercising in public space can act against the health benefits and restrict access for women and gender diverse people.

“An individual’s experiences of such spaces are shaped by their identity – not just their gender but also age, ethnicityreligion, economic status, as well as personal experiences, and those of friends and family.”

The report findings will inform design guidelines, policies, and future investment opportunities as part of the Victorian Government’s Open Space for Everyone strategy.

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