Figures reveal extent of violence against women in Sussex - surely more needs to be done to make our streets safer
On average women are victims of more than six rapes or sexual assaults a day in Sussex, figures show.
The most recent statistics we have from Sussex Police for the 12 months up to March 2020 show that 1,162 women aged 13 and over were sexually assaulted - more than three women a day across East and West Sussex.
And when it comes to rape of women over 16 there were 1,194 reported rapes within those 12 months in Sussex, meaning Sussex had the 13th highest number of sexual assaults and rapes in the country.
However, it is not just women who are victims, with 71 men raped and 225 men sexually assaulted in the same 12 months, according to the Sussex Police statistics.
Analysis of the picture nationally show more than 100 women are raped and 100 more sexually assaulted every day on average in England and Wales. You can read the full story about these national statistics here.It is important to note these statistics are based on reported cases, with charities saying many people do not report their ordeal meaning the actual total could be much higher.
Currently there are a number of schemes that have been set up to help people feel safer.
Ask for Angela is the name of a campaign in England that started in 2016 and is used by bars and other venues to keep people safe from sexual assault by using a codeword to identify when they are in danger or are in an uncomfortable situation.
Posters are placed on the stall doors inside toilets of the establishments where the campaign is being implemented.
There is also the Ask for ANI campaign, which is a codeword you can use if you are a victim of domestic abuse. This is run through pharmacies which display the 'Ask for ANI’ logo.
And there are apps, such as the Hollie Guard, which work by shaking or tapping your phone to activate the app and it will immediately notify your chosen contacts, pinpointing your location and sending audio and video evidence directly to their mobile phones.
Following the news that 33-year-old Sarah Everard was kidnapped and murdered after walking home in South London last week we asked the question 'should more be done to make women feel safe'. 'Yes, of course' was the overwhelming response to this question when posed on our Facebook pages.
We received more than 400 comments on the topic. Views ranged from coming up with ideas on how to make the streets safer - such as improving street lighting, having more police out and about, access to self defence classes; tougher punishment - to the suggestion that more education of men needs to take place.
Victoria Morris-Birrell wrote on the Crawley Observer Facebook page: "Instead of having to teach women to protect themselves, teach men not to be violent/to rape/to kill. It's not difficult to be a decent human being!"
Rachel Cave added: "We need to address our attitudes towards masculinity that starts with 'boys will be boys' and ends in rape culture where women have to police what they wear, how they behave and where they go and men are not held accountable for their actions. We need to make it clear there are no 'blurred lines', no means no, and most women DO NOT WANT to be approached by men they don't know when out in public generally. Young women do not want comments about their appearance. It's not flattering! It's harassment. Women should be able to go all the places men do and not worry that they are going to be attacked."
And Simon Antink wrote on the Eastbourne Herald Facebook page: "Yes. There is too much discussion about how women should do more to protect themselves (not going out alone after dark, not dressing provocatively, etc). There needs to be more discussion about what we as men can do to make women feel safer when they come across at night."
During the discussion, many men also spoke out saying they do not feel safe, with violence against men a real concern.
Matt Mitchell wrote on the Littlehampton Facebook page: "The facts are more men are killed and assaulted on UK streets every year than women, maybe look at the facts, as a man I'm sick of the blatant sexism coming from people over this..."
Oliver Hollingdale agreed, writing: "As a dude, I never feel safe walking around at night, I always look over my shoulder and always remain vigilant and alert, sadly that's the world we live in..."
However, many women shared their experiences and questioned whether men felt the same extent of fear many women feel when out alone.
Holly Winstanley wrote on the Worthing Herald Facebook page: "I wish more men understood the fact that we cannot walk alone at night with headphones in. That whenever we get in Ubers there’s always that lingering feeling of ‘this could be it’. That whenever you say ‘they’re just being friendly’ you are part of the problem. That whenever we walk past groups of men, our hearts beat that little bit faster. That whenever we shout back at sexual harassment in the street, we take yet another gamble at risking our safety. We cannot even walk home. Home - your safe place. STOP harassing women. Stop victim-blaming women. And stop burdening women with the weight of other men’s actions. If you haven’t: Text a mate ‘I’m home’; Got your keys in your hand between your knuckles in prep; Locked your car door immediately; Held your breath till you’ve got past someone; Crossed a road to avoid someone; Called and said ‘chat to me for 5’ Then you’re a man. Why are women taught to be careful? Why is it our responsibility to protect ourselves. ‘Text me when you get home’. It’s like autopilot. We don’t even realise it’s become standard procedure."
While Soph Ing wrote on Hastings Observer Facebook page: "Men need to realise how scary it is to be a woman walking alone and knowing there is a man walking too close behind you. Even if you know you're not going to do anything, we've had to wire ourselves to be afraid. How many times I've held my keys or phoned (or pretended to phone) someone is anyone's guess. Men still walk too close. Hang back or walk on the other side of the road."
Following a wave of condemnation of male violence against women in the wake of the suspected murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who disappeared in London last week while walking home, the hashtag #ReclaimTheseStreets started trending, with vigils planned around the country.
This includes one in Worthing and one in Valley Gardens, Brighton tomorrow (Saturday, March 13) at 6pm.
However, local authorities are asking people not to attend these vigils due to current lockdown restrictions and the on-going pandemic. Instead people are being asked to a light a candle at home at 6pm.