*Disclaimer: this article deals with sexual assault*
My travel to Canada for studies started off on a chilly note.
I was overjoyed when the planning began, as it was a long-cherished dream to obtain foreign certification, pursue a master’s degree programme, and further my career. Reflecting on the admission process up until I received my student visa, those days were exhilarating.
The turn of events began just a few months before my departure from Nigeria when a close friend of mine, I’ll call her “Shola”, who had also recently migrated to North America for her graduate degree reached out to me. She had only been in the United States for a month, a period she described as the most terrifying time of her life.
Shola had first ignored the warning signs that she was being followed in the neighbourhood because she believed it was her imagination. She could not understand why someone would be stalking her, especially in a peaceful area where she had just moved and didn’t know nor had any encounters with anyone yet.
After a few weeks, in her baffled state, she confided in me about her ordeal. I spoke to her to help her anxiety, calm her down, and encourage her to speak with school friends and people around her. A week later, the unthinkable occurred. Shola was raped on her way home from university one night in December 2021 by the man who’d been following her. Sadly, she didn’t have a friend or neighbour nearby to urgently call for help. This horrible occurrence has compromised Shola’s mental stability.
When I remembered Shola’s experience, together with the memories of an awful robbery my family lived through eight years ago, my dreams for the journey ahead were nearly dashed. I became rather anxious about migrating to a different country for my education. I knew my MBA lecture time-stretched until late at night most days. This meant I would be returning alone at night most of the time. My nerves about travelling to Canada alone as a woman were only getting worse.
Around 4.7 million-or 30% of Canadian women over the age of 15 have been sexually assaulted outside of a relationship since they turned 15. It is the only violent crime in Canada that is not on a decline.(Statistics Canada, 2014, 2019)
Consequently, during my first few weeks in Canada, I looked online for location-specific crime and incident rates and spoke with people in my community. As a newcomer, unfamiliar with the area and culture, I was concerned about which neighbourhood to settle in and which ones to avoid in day-to-day life. Despite scanning the web and roaming message boards, Facebook groups, etc. I couldn’t find a complete answer to my concerns.
After weeks of deliberation, I eventually decided on an area to live in, but I still feel insecure, especially when I return home alone late at night.
Understanding the demographics and incident rate of an area or community is essential when determining where to reside. I will never forget the lessons learned about the importance of taking additional precautions after Shola’s rape experience and the widespread attack that occurred in our neighbourhood back home eight years ago. It’s this story, as well as my own accounts, that led me to want to create change. I joined Alli to help people access this safety information more easily and create a culture for a safer world. If I can help others feel just a little safer when they’re navigating an unfamiliar territory like I was, I will feel accomplished.