Belfast Telegraph

Rallying call aims to change attitudes toward sex attacks

By Lisa Smyth

The idea that it is the responsibility of women to prevent rape has been challenged as dangerous at a rally in Londonderry.

The event, organised by a range of women’s groups, follows a number of recent attacks in the city — including the alleged rape of a young woman in the Shipquay Street area just over a week ago.

Protesters with placards bearing slogans such as ‘Rape is an Act of Warfare’ and ‘Sexual Violence is Everyone’s Issue’ took part in the rally at the Guildhall Square on Saturday afternoon to encourage more to be done to protect women from sexual violence.

In December, women in Derry were warned against walking alone at night after a series of sex attacks in the city.

An organiser said: “We believe we need to question why such attacks are taking place, and acknowledge that we only hear about a very small percentage of acts of sexual violence including rape. We are angered by the silence and scant regard given to this crime within our society and to the dangerous culture of making rape prevention the responsibility of women.

“Rape and sexual violence are a violation of fundamental human rights and need to be widely challenged as a social and political issue, not as mere incidents expected to be resolved by the police and the courts.”

She added victims require very specific at individual, community and societal levels.

She said that a culture which accepts and permits rape by making women’s safety their own responsibility is a culture that needs to be directly challenged.

“We need to challenge those elements of our society’s culture which have led to the acceptance that rape is something that just happens,” she continued.

“Saturday’s action is part of a longer term grassroots conversation in the north west to challenge the existing culture around rape and to ensure that rape victims ultimately get the supports they need.

“We are uniting as women across the city and wider north west to openly challenge our own society on the issue of rape.”

Protesters also want the legal system reformed as too many rapists escape justice over whether the victim was drinking alcohol or was dressed provocatively.

Background

Recent sex attacks in Derry included the rape of a girl by a man wearing a Scream film mask on Halloween night at the junction of Edenmore Park and Northland Road. Less than three weeks later a teenager was attacked in the Templegrove area. A girl was dragged into an alleyway off the Strand Road and assaulted on December 15. The most recent attack occurred on February 18 in the Shipquay Street area.

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