Street team preventing sexualized violence coming to Victoria

Street team preventing sexualized violence coming to Victoria

A non-profit that ensures everyone has a good night out just received federal funding to expand their important work to Victoria.

“When we got the news it didn’t feel real,” said Stacey Forrester, Good Night Out education director.

Good Night Out, a non-profit society committed to providing safer nights out for all, has been operating a street team on Vancouver’s Granville Street for a few years to prevent sexualized violence.

They’ve been recognized by the federal government as a promising practice in addressing gender-based violence. As a result, they’ve received additional funding to expand their late night street team to Victoria.

“We say that goodnight out doesn’t end until you’re tucked into bed at home with pizza,” says Forrester.

Sexualized violence can happen anywhere, but workers at Good Night Out say the nightlife scene is a particular area of concern.

“Unwanted sexual contact, unwanted sexual behavior, a lot of those behaviors are normalized in nightlife. That’s what we’re here to show an alternative, that it is important to address them, and help and hopefully intervene and stop them altogether,” said Alex Kierstead with Good Night Out.

From having bouncers text them if someone needs their help, to walking people to the bus stop, their street team is a subtle presence that helps fight gender-based sexualized violence that might not always be obvious.

“We normally send about six people out wearing pink sweatshirts,” said Kierstead. “We’ll be having a presence that is equipped for the sub-criminal things that make people feel unsafe.”

Sam Loppie, executive director of the Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic, is relieved to hear Good Night Out will be coming to Victoria.

“Sometimes things like in the downtown at bars and clubs, big events, festivals, things like that, folks talk about how those spaces not only can be places where they can experience sexualized violence, but also other things like discomfort,” said Loppie. “I think that having them in the community will really make a marked impact towards sexualized violence prevention and the safety our folks feel in the community.”

Victoria Police currently operate a late night task force, with four members each night on a sign-up basis. VicPD wouldn’t say how those shifts were filled over the last month.

The Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA) says the additional help will only benefit the capital city.

“I think they’re presence is one more step in improving the experience of people downtown,” said Jeff Bray, CEO of the DVBA.

The three-year federal grant gives Good Night Out just under $300,000. Instead of a static location, like Vancouver’s Granville Street, they’re planning on setting up pop-up shops in the capital region during popular party nights like Halloween and New Years Eve, and at local events, with appearances on campuses like the University of Victoria.

Good Night Out is discussing with stakeholders about which locations and times they’ll be most needed. They’re hoping their services will start in the spring.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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