TRC join protestors in a campaign to make our streets safer for women and take more action against sexual violence
It was an impressive sight as hundreds of activists took to Oxford Road on Thursday night (22nd February) to make their voices and demands heard in a campaign for safer streets in Manchester.
The annual campaign, organized by representatives from Manchester University Students Union, calls for action to address street harassment, sexual violence and victim-blaming.
Reported cases of sexual harassment have risen by 64% since 2016; stalking and harassment by 75%. Despite this, police numbers have seen a 23% drop and in 2018, the council made the decision to close down the specialist sex crime unit in Manchester.
(Source: Full Fact)
In light of those statistics, this year’s event had some specific objectives to present to Manchester City Council, as part of a petition addressed to Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham:
1) Increase the street lighting provisions in Rusholme and Fallowfield. To also ensure that darker areas that are currently without any street lights are lit up. The campaign also calls for an increased police presence in these areas.
2) Stop the cuts to Women’s shelters and to increase funding for local services that support victims.
3) Do more to increase awareness of where victims can report acts of violence. As part of this, the campaign calls on the council to encourage more organisations to become hate crime reporting centres, with the aim to double the number of Third Party Hate Crime Reporting Centres in Manchester by 2020.
(Credit: Manchester Evening News)
Placards challenging long-standing myths and championing female empowerment were displayed along the full length of the line, which began its march at the Owen’s Park halls of residence and concluded with a rally at the Manchester University Students Union. Protestors collectively chanted their demands for safer streets, an end to victim blaming and to stop rape crisis cuts.
Main organiser, MU Women’s Officer Sara Heddi, delivered a rallying speech as the march ended at the Union.
“We are DONE asking questions, we are done being silent: we’re here to be loud. We’re here because we’re not afraid to speak out. This is more than just a march this year. Look around you! Look how many people are here!
“Sexual harassment and rape is not a trend. I am sick of sexual harassment just being another statistic in the news. We are not numbers. We are not percentages. We are people.
“And I am sick of the media wanting to start conversations, open a dialogue, and then close it when it’s not trending on Twitter anymore. I’m sick of the media asking me, ‘is sexual harassment still a problem?’ Look around you. We KNOW it’s a problem.”
Trafford Rape Crisis staff and volunteers joined the march to lend their voices to the cause, as well as raise awareness of the service which can support women in the Greater Manchester area affected by sexual violence.
“The sheer scale of this year’s Reclaim the Night march shows this is still a hugely critical issue and that not enough is being done to make the women of Manchester feel safe in their own city,” says TRC volunteer, Becki.
“The support for this campaign is amazing. Even as we marched, people were joining us off the street, stopping to read our messages, cheering or beeping their horns. But while it’s great to raise awareness on the ground, we need action from the top. We need the support of our council to make real changes and protect women.
“We’re calling on Andy Burnham and our council to listen and respond to this petition. Street lighting, police presence and funding for support services are all critical to address the ongoing epidemic of sexual violence and harassment in Greater Manchester.”
Speaking afterwards about the Reclaim The Night event, Sara commented:
“I think the march went fantastically; look how many people are here. There was such a vibe, a buzz: everyone was excited and engaged.
“My message for the council is that it’s time for collaboration. It’s time for the council to work with us: we’re not enemies, we’re on the same page, the same table. It’s time to get around that table and start making things happen.”
The petition currently stands at 1,200 signatures. Support the cause by signing it here: Make our Streets Safer.