'We are fearful of being abused and attacked': Leeds Women's Aid calls for action to make city's streets and homes safe for women
Leeds Women's Aid has called for action to make women feel safe on the city's streets and in their homes.
The charity's chief executive, Nik Peasgood, welcomed the national conversation around women's safety which has been prompted by the disappearance of Sarah Everard in London last week.
As police investigate her disappearance, there has been an outpouring of anger and frustration from women across the country who live in fear of their own safety while going about their daily lives.
Women in Leeds have come together to say they don't want to be scared on the city's streets anymore and Nik said that conversations around safety should focus around telling men not to attack women, rather than blaming women for walking alone at night.
She said: “It seems that there is a national conversation which has been a long time coming.
“As a girl, we are told what we should and shouldn’t do to keep ourselves safe. We need to reverse this. ‘You must change your behaviour; you must think about this.’ When do we start telling men and boys ‘don’t attack women’?
“We do feel like there is a curfew sometimes. What time is it okay for us to walk on public streets without people saying ‘oh it was late and she shouldn’t have been doing that'?
"We shouldn’t be having those conversations. We shouldn’t be judged about where we are, where we walk, what we do, what we wear. Whether we are on our phones and so not being aware of our surroundings."
Nik added that there needs to be a wider conversation about why women and girls have to make changes to keep themselves safe.
She said: “More women are killed every day, every year by men that they know rather than those that they come into contact with on the street.
“We are fearful of being abused, attacked, we don’t know which men and boys are going to do it. There is something that is inherent in the way we are brought up."
A recent UN Women UK survey found that 97 per cent of women aged 18 to 25 have been sexually harassed, while 80 per cent of women of all ages said they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces.
Nik added: "When do we say this isn’t inevitable anymore? Why are certain things just seen as something that we have to live with?
“Domestic violence and abuse has skyrocketed. Although a lot has been done to highlight domestic abuse issues, not enough has been done.
"It stems from women’s inequalities and perception of men and masculinity and what is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable."
Nik highlighted the work of Women's Lives Leeds, a joint partnership of 12 organisations in the city shining a spotlight on gender inequalities.
“Women’s Lives Leeds wants to make Leeds the first women-friendly city with the UN", Nik said.
"Additionally, we are also working with other partners like the council in terms of looking how to make Leeds a safe city. This conversation and media coverage is really highlighting why being a women-friendly city is something everyone should want it to be.
“It’s not about making it a non-men friendly city; it’s about levelling the playing field and making everyone safe.
"Making Leeds a women-friendly city would highlight we have taken steps to make sure everyone is as safe as possible."
The Leeds Domestic Violence helpline is available 24 hours a day on 0113 246 0401.