Last Saturday York’s streets belonged to its women. On the UN Day to Eliminate Violence, the University of York Women’s Rugby Club lead a march against sexual violence and harassment, and stood in solidarity with survivors.
The march was a result of years of tradition, starting in the 70s, of women demanding a voice, and the right to be able to walk the streets safely. We had not marched in York for some years, and as a result, many people question why we need it again. To these people I would like to remind that in September, in York, there were three incidents of sexual assault against women within days of each other. And, according to police statistics, there were over 100 cases of violence and sexual assault in September, in North York alone. York is a beautiful city, but that does not mean it is safe.
This is not a problem that we can ‘leave’ to others. In the UK, nearly half a million men and women are sexually assaulted every year - over 85,000 women are raped each year. In the world, 1 in 3 women will have experienced sexual violence in her lifetime.
This march was necessary because when women walk home at night we have strategies for dealing with a potential attack. We get our keys ready in our hands, dial the first two 9s on our phone, cross the road because there is someone behind us, call someone because if something happens they’ll know. Try to keep close to houses that we could call on and in places with lights. This is the experience of thousands of women in York every single night. But York is our city. We have the right, as citizens of this city and of the world, to be able to walk home without constantly preparing to protect our bodies at any moment.
With this in mind, men and women of York – including IDAS supporters, YSJ students, Uni of York students and tourists of the city who simply joined in - took to the streets, attracting much attention from those doing their Christmas shopping. It was an inspiring sight, to see our community come together behind this cause was incredible, and I cannot thank you enough if you turned up. I am also honoured that you listened to me speak, I am incredibly proud that our club could be at the forefront of this march for a cause which we are so passionate about. I must thank: our Fundraising Officers Amy Curtin & Holly Shiels for their hard work, our committee for their stewarding skills, Carmel from IDAS (especially for her expert chanting), YUSU and SABB Officers for their help with promotion, anyone who retweeted or shared our social media promo and Eden Ladley for coming to talk to us. We have a lot of work still to do, but we have shown that York will not stand for fear on our streets.