Women in Yorkshire tell their stories of catcalling, harassment and sexual assault as figures show 20 victims report sexual violence a day in region

From being attacked while walking home to receiving sexual notes on a car windscreen – women in Yorkshire have told their stories of men who have violated their right to safety.

Figures revealed by The Yorkshire Post through analysis of police data show that more than 20 women in Yorkshire reported being either raped or sexually assaulted each day in the year ending March 2020.

The rate for sexual violence in the region in this period was above the national average, with 66.3 sexual assaults recorded per 100,000 people in Yorkshire, compared with 63.4 per 100,000 nationally. For rape, the national rate is 63.1 per 100,000, in Yorkshire it is 72.6.

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But behind the figures are stories that have left women feeling traumatised, violated and afraid, with many resorting to changing their routines because of the actions of male perpetrators.

Anti-street harassment campaigner Amber Keegan, who has herself been a victim of assault and harassment from men in public

Amber Keegan is a PhD student in chemical engineering in Sheffield who has experienced harassment and assault, and is now part of the Our Streets Now campaign to make street harassment illegal.

Ms Keegan, 24, said that the threat of assault and harassment was something she and her friends had come to accept as "normal".

"It's not normal, when you think about it," she said.

"The vast majority of the time when people are harassing you - whether it’s beeping their horn, whistling or catcalling - it’s not done as a compliment, no matter what they claim. It’s a power move to assert their power over you."

Anti-street harassment campaigner Amber Keegan, who has herself been a victim of assault and harassment from men in public

The student at the University of Sheffield said she had experienced being groped in a nightclub as well as harassment while exercising outdoors.

"I was dancing with some friends in a club and some guy stuck his hand down my jeans," she said.

"Another time, I was at a dance class and was trying to leave at the end when this man stood between me and the doorway saying, ‘don’t leave, darling, you’ve got the best legs in here’. He looked to be in his sixties and was with his friends. I just ran through the side door to get out."

One victim of sexual assault said she was attacked by a stranger who had offered to walk her home from a pub in Baildon, West Yorkshire, back in 2006.

Women in Yorkshire have told their stories of men who have violated their right to safety. Picture: Adobe Stock Images

"It was terrifying and I was covered in bruises," said the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

"I trusted the guy to walk me from the pub to my house which was yards away, and he tripped me up in an alleyway.

"I passed out because I had banged my head, and when I came round he was assaulting me.

She said it had taken years "to come to the conclusion that I did nothing wrong" after questioning whether the assault had been her fault.

Anti-street harassment campaigner Amber Keegan, who has herself been a victim of assault and harassment from men in public

Another woman told how she was subjected to a campaign of stalking and harassment from one man she did not know in Chapel Allerton, Leeds.

She said: "I noticed him in the car park quite a few times and thought he looked unwell, maybe having mental health concerns. Then I noticed he would turn and change direction quite abruptly when I passed and walk behind me.

"One day he followed me and I felt concerned so stopped and turned around, he was hiding behind the edge of the row of houses on my street pointing his phone at me like he was filming me."

The stalking culminated in notes being left on her car's windscreen, one of which was sexually explicit.

"When I got the third note, I had been on holiday for a week and it wasn’t there when I got home from the airport that night but was there first thing the next morning.

"That's when I got scared because I felt like he knew when I was home, he’d left it at some point during the night and also it was a sexual message."

The Government has revealed that police forces everywhere will be classing misogyny as a hate crime from the autumn, although a small number of forces - including North Yorkshire Police - already do so.

Ms Keegan's campaigning to stamp out street harassment currently sees her sending resources to schools educating students on public safety.

"We did research with Plan International UK which showed that one third of girls have been harassed in their school uniforms," she said.

"Schoolgirls have to understand what’s going on and that it’s not about them. This is about giving power back to women."

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