Stop blaming women for being attacked on city streets say Leeds campaigners

Women in Leeds are coming together to say they don't want to be scared on the city's streets anymore.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 6:00 am

Movements which started back in the 1970s in response to women being told to stay at home while serial killer Peter Sutcliffe conducted a reign of terror across Yorkshire murdering 13 women and attempting to murder seven others between 1975 and 1980 are being re-ignited.

Female campaigners in Leeds say it is sad and distressing that stances such as 'Reclaim the Night', which was founded in Leeds as part of the Women's Liberation Movement in 1977 are still needed.

It comes amid 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.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Women should feel safe on the streets at night.

According to a survey from UN Women UK, 97 percent of women aged 18-24 said they had been sexually harassed, while 80 per cent of women of all ages said they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces.

Coun Al Garthwaite, who represents the Headingley and Hyde Park ward, was one of the founder members of the Leeds movement.

She said: "It is very sad and distressing that the need is still there. I have every sympathy for women doing Reclaim the Night. There is still this attitude like in 1977 'where was she? why was she there on her own? what was she wearing? she should not have gone down that ginnel'. We have to bring to an end and stop blaming women for the behaviour of the male attacker."

Read More

Read More
'I walk home with keys between my fingers' - how safe do women really feel at ni...
Katie Russell, national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales and co-founder of Support After Rape & Sexual Violence Leeds (SARSVL).

Coun Garthwaite has also called for changes in the law to make misogyny a recognised form of hate crime and deterrent if perpetrators end up with a criminal record and to work on increasing the numbers of rape reports that are taken to court and result in convictions.

She added: "This is something we can and should change. This should be different and it is in our power to make that different. I want women to be angry, I want us to feel strong and not to feel as though we should hide at home."

That is still the case for many women including Kaz Scattergood from Girl Gang Leeds. She says she won't walk to the shop or go for a run after dark and a man who delivered bread to a shop on her walking route to work harassed her every day from his van and reports to police were fruitless.

"It is sad that we all feel this but putting it out there feels like a start but it has been happening for 50 years, I don't know if it will do anything because it has not before."

Katie Russell is the national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales and co-founder of Support After Rape & Sexual Violence Leeds (SARSVL).

She says there needs to be a change in culture.

She told the Yorkshire Evening Post the focus needs to be on the perpetrator, prevention and having respect for the other sexes and genders.

Ms Russell said: "Wolf-whistling shows a lack of empathy and objectifying of women and girls, at the other end of the spectrum is rape and murder. We have to tackle it all. It relies on society and it relies on cultural change.

"From early socialisation we have learned this with subliminal messages. It seeps into psychology and how we perceive our behaviour and if it happens women infer the blame or feel ashamed thinking maybe I should not have done X, Y or Z, or walked my dog on my own after dark. Restricting women's freedom or movements to go about their lives and enjoy ordinary activities - it should not be our responsibility to end male violence.

"In 40 years we have come a long way - but have we really come far enough?"

Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe