Seven women are raped every week in North Yorkshire, new figures show
Every week in North Yorkshire, an average of nine women are sexually assaulted and seven are raped, the latest figures show.
The recent murder of Sarah Everard in the south of England has prompted a national discussion about violence against women, their safety in our society and how offences against them are dealt with.
From feeling unsafe walking outside at night to daily harassment, and physical assaults, many women accept such experiences as just a part of life they have to put up with.
Indeed in my own circle of friends, there isn't a single woman who hasn't experienced some degree of sexual harassment in their life.
From the age of 12 onwards I have moderated my behaviour to try and keep myself safe, aware far earlier than I would have liked of the dangers I face just by being a woman in the world.
I've had interactions with strangers, acquaintances, former employees and school peers that have at best left me feeling uncomfortable and at worst unsafe, and neither myself nor my friends are unique in our experiences.
Figures from the Open Crime Database show that in the 12 months up to March 2020, there were 477 victims of sexual assault aged 13 or over in North Yorkshire, 417 of which were female and 60 male.
The same data shows there were 390 victims of rape aged 16 or over, of which 370 were female and 20 male. Female cases of rape outnumber male cases 18 to 1.
This equates to an average of nine women a week in the county being sexually assaulted, and seven raped.
Home Office statistics show that women are disproportionately impacted by sex crimes and are more likely to be victims of stalking, harassment and domestic abuse than men.
However police recorded crime does not capture the full scale of the issue as charities say many people do not report this type of crime.
Under reported crime
Carmel Offord, of IDAS, the largest specialist charity in Yorkshire which supports anyone experiencing or affected by domestic abuse or sexual violence, said: "It's very difficult to get a sense of the scope of this type of crime. Very few people will report it to anyone because so much of this stuff has become normalised.
"People are outpouring experiences online because we chalk them up to being just a bad experience and don't always see how they've affected us until a while afterwards."
Much of the conversation over the past week has been around how women are taught to safeguard themselves from a young age - choosing routes to walk based on street lighting, changing into trainers to walk home so it's easier to run from someone, having 999 ready to call on your phone in your pocket - these are all examples of how girls and woman are altering their behaviour every day to try and keep themselves safe.
Carmel continued: "Everyone is ready to tell women what they should or shouldn't do to help themselves stay safe, it's quite an embedded message."
However, she explained how such messages can act as a distraction from preventative action that should be taking place.
"Education is very important," she added, "Educating young boys and men in respect, conduct and consent so there is a zero tolerance approach.
"When [we] tolerate smaller things they allow more serious incidents to happen. And then where on the spectrum should one report it?
"You should be free to walk wherever you want, wherever you want, but we're not."
Help and Support
Anyone who has experienced domestic abuse, sexual assault or sexual harassment can receive support from IDAS.
Carmel said: "A message that has been engrained is 'don't make a fuss' but we can feel very traumatised by something others don't see as a big deal.
"Anyone can get support and advice from us."
IDAS offers a sexual violence website which gives advice and information to victims of sexual assault.
In light of the death of Sarah Everard, Home Secretary Priti Patel has urged people to share their views with the Government.
Views can be submitted here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/violence-against-women-and-girls-vawg-call-for-evidence