Three rapes in 24 hours spark call to be alert
Three women have been raped in three separate sexually assaults in the space of just 24 hours across Northern Ireland.
A woman in her 40s was attacked by two men in west Belfast in the early hours of Sunday.
And in Londonderry a teenage girl was the victim of a serious sexual assault in the early hours of Saturday in the Temple Grove area.
At around the same time in Co Armagh, a young woman was attacked on her way home from a night out in Portadown.
In the wake of the attacks campaigners who help survivors of rape and sexual abuse have urged women to look out for each other.
The Belfast attack happened at around 1am on Sunday when the woman was set upon by two men in the Whiterock Road area.
Police have described her attackers as being in their 30s, of heavy build and wearing jeans.
The PSNI has asked anyone with information about the attack to contact detectives at its rape crime unit at Ladas Drive in Belfast.
Police believe the man responsible for the Derry sex assault, which occurred in the Temple Grove area of the city at about 3.15am, was wearing a dark trench coat and lace-up boots.
In Portadown another young woman was attacked in the Ballyoran area at about the same time.
Sinn Fein councillor Gemma McKenna said the victim was returning from a night out and was close to her home when her attacker struck.
“She was subjected to a horrific attack within a relatively short distance of her home,” she said.
“It is imperative that this individual is caught and imprisoned as a matter of priority. This is not just an issue for the PSNI, it is an issue for the entire community.”
Helena Bracken, acting director of Nexus, a counselling service for rape survivors, said women needed to look out for each other.
“Coming up to the Christmas party season the last thing we want to do is scaremonger, but I think there’s a problem,” she said.
“I know I was the same when I was young — you feel invincible — but we just need to keep hammering home the message that we need to look out for ourselves.
“Young women don’t need to make massive lifestyle changes but they need to look out for themselves and their friends and and the key message is: ‘Don’t take risks’.”
She said parents needed to “keep chipping away” to make their daughters aware of the need to take reputable taxis home “even if they live just up the road”.
She added that while the vast majority of men were “decent human beings who wouldn’t touch a woman ... unfortunately there are some men out there that women need to be protected from”.