It’s a fact that gender-based crimes are rife in Australia, particularly for women and nonbinary folks. But here’s another fact for you: a massive 83% of sexual assault crimes are never reported to the police at all.
Everyone has a different reason for not going to the police, but this lack of reporting is important to note because it has pervasive repercussions beyond convicting criminals. It creates a huge data gap that makes it even harder to get the full picture of how and where assault is taking place.
Historically, policymakers have relied on a data set created by police reports, which we know accounts for only 17% of all sexual assault crimes committed. But how can we ever make significant progress in eliminating gender-based violence and creating safer cities so the crimes don’t happen at all? In short: it’ll be difficult.
For a long time, the focus has been on catching the bad guys, and of course, that’s bloody important. But imagine for a second that cities could be designed to be safer in the first place.
Well, that’s exactly what Zoë Condliffe is trying to do with her Aussie-based online platform, She’s a Crowd. Simply put, She’s a Crowd allows anyone — no matter where they live in the world — to map out their stories of street harassment. All of the information you submit is immediately anonymised and added to their growing data set, which is used to establish ‘danger zones’ in our cities. You can even view the map on their website, where people have reported their own stories.
These hotspots can then “be addressed in planning, policy and prevention,” Zoë told PEDESTRIAN.TV. “We might be able to, for example, highlight transport precincts which are not set up safely, or places that need better lighting or more community awareness. We are able to use the data to advocate for the issue at large as well.” Zoë says that since launching in 2018, more than 10,000 stories have been recorded on the website — but they’re just getting started.
Zoë explains that there are four main reasons people don’t report crimes:
- Due to the normalisation of the issue (i.e. thinking ‘it’s not a big deal’).
- People internalising their trauma and thinking it’s their own fault.
- Mistrust of authorities.
- The perception that it’s too difficult to make a report and is therefore not worth it.
“She’s A Crowd aims to dissolve the barriers to reporting,” she says. “We make it simple and easy to report your story and we keep stories safe, and build a trusting relationship with our users.”
The website makes it easy to anonymously share your experience in a matter of minutes with a simplistic design and intuitive prompts. If you want to report something like catcalling on the streets, a location where you felt uneasy or like you were being followed, a few clicks on the website will help you to easily report this type of experience. Adding any commentary or specifics surrounding your story would take longer, but is also encouraged and totally optional.
The benefits of the She’s a Crowd website are two-fold: people have the opportunity to share their experiences in a safe space and feel heard, plus these stories are then used to create safer spaces and work towards stamping out gender-based violence.
The next step for She’s a Crowd is to make it easier for policymakers and town planners to access the data — that’s what it’s all for, after all. “We are building a dashboard for use by decision-makers,” says Zoë. “Our data is geolocative-based, so we can actually show them trends across space as well as high-level statistics, and granular details and qualitative insights.”
All that’s to say, She’s a Crowd is making some serious moves in trying to make our cities, bars, music venues, and workplaces safer for everyone. And that’s something we can certainly get behind.Image: She's A Crowd