These Streets Were Made For Walking

Trigger warning for discussion of rape, sexual assault

Last night there was another case of stranger-rape on a public street in Glasgow, the fourth case of this type reported by the police and the media in Glasgow in the last couple of months, with the perpetrators thought to be unrelated. Police are still searching for these men who they want to talk to in relation to their investigation into a rape in Govanhill last month, so if you recognise the men pictured on CCTV footage please put them in touch with the police.

The Herald reported today that the number of calls to Rape Crisis Glasgow have risen 50% in two years alone. While most cases of sexual assault are caused by a perpetrator known to the survivor, it’s undeniable that it’s the experiences of the women who have been attacked in the streets that loom large on our minds when we’re on a night out, walking home in the dark, or even just taking the bins out alone. For a lot of people, the fear has become less ‘will I be raped?’ than ‘when and in what circumstance will I be raped?’. I certainly felt anxious walking home last night, and that was only from a friend’s house round the corner and by that time it was light out. I knew that my dress and heels would compromise my ability to run if I had to.

Women have long changed their behaviour in public as a defensive mechanism against the threat of attack. It’s probably quite hard to understand how that feels if you’ve never or rarely powerwalked home with your keys between your fingers, hoping to get the door slammed behind you before that man or men that you don’t know potentially catch up. I think it’s important for men to be aware of their surroundings when they’re walking home too – don’t walk too close or too fast next to women on their own at night, because while you might know you’re a good guy, we have no way of knowing that. We have to make quick judgements and try to extricate ourselves from something we worry could turn into a situation, because the alternative is unthinkable. One thing that you as a dude could do to play your part in easing this time of heightened awareness and anxiety about stranger-rape is to be aware of who’s in the street with you and keep a decent distance. It might be a pain in the arse to notice and actively modify your behaviour and movements, especially when you’re pissed and just want to get home to bed, but remember that it’s much more of a pain in the arse for women who have to do that all the time just to feel slightly safer.

With the importance of the right to walk the streets without fear in any circumstance in mind, a walk has been organised for tomorrow night (Monday 9th June 2014) at midnight, meeting at Queens Park – more details on These Streets Were Made For Walking facebook event. We spoke to organisers Amanda and Ashley about why they decided to call the walk – here is what they had to say, in full and un-edited:

The walk route

The walk route

How and why did the march come about?

After the recent news of recent sexual assaults in the Govanhill and larger Glasgow area, organisers Amanda Johnston and Ashley Crossan were concerned about their own and their friend’s safety when walking about their area. Frustrated by the need to call friends on a regular basis to see if they had arrived home safely, and paying for taxis to go the short distance to and from friend’s homes in the area, it was decided that it was not acceptable to be this fearful to walk about the streets for fear of being attacked. The idea for the walk was initially a group of our friends coming together to walk together , and feel reassured and confident that we were not alone and had the support of our fellow community. After posting the event on social media, the walk garnered a great deal of attention from the local community, Glasgow public and the media, who were keen to come along and support us.

Why was midnight chosen specifically?

Although attacks can happen at any time of day, and indeed anywhere, through talking with friends – a lot of whom work in bars, pubs and night shift in the local area and in the city centre, it was found that the night time, and specifically after dark, was the time when we felt most afraid to walk in the street.

What do we hope to achieve?

First and foremost, we wanted to raise awareness of our plight, the need to feel safe when walking around is crucial to the wellbeing of the public and the sense of community with which Govanhill should be known. We do not know why these recent attacks have happened, that is not for us to figure out. But we do not want our area to be tarnished as ‘unsafe’ or as a no-go area. We want to inspire confidence in the people, to have the knowledge that the support of the community is out there, and most importantly, we want safety on our streets. People looking out for themselves and others. Govanhill is one of the most multicultural areas in Glasgow, with the potential to be one of the most diverse and friendly communities. We have a beautiful park, a mixture of different shops, cafes and restaurants and we see this as a great opportunity to unite all of the different local communities for the same cause.

What could be done to improve safety in the area?

We would like to instill the sense of community which has been lost due to what seems to be a lack of attention to the area. We want the authorities to have more involvement with Govanhill, to reassure the local public that the full potential of the area is being realised. It is also our duty as locals to the area to not feel fear of our own streets, and to do what we can to ensure we are safe and confident . This walk is a show of support and solidarity for victims of sexual assault in the wake of terrible recent events.

What has been the response so far?

The positive response from the people of Glasgow and beyond has been overwhelming. We think people are alarmed that these attacks are happening, and want to do whatever they can to support the victims of these crimes and to raise awareness of the need for greater safety measures to be put in place. What began as a discussion between two friends, has grown to an event which thousands have agreed to support. This positivity is the true spirit of Glasgow that we want to promote.

Event Details

The walk will take place at 11.45pm, Monday 9th June at the Gate entrance to Queens Park at the top of Victoria Road. We will meet at this time, and the walk will commence at approximately 12am. The exact route will be published shortly, but the walk should take around 30-45 mins. We ask those coming along to please ensure that they make necessary arrangements coming to and from the walk to ensure their own safety. We are in the process of getting a large Glasgow taxi firm on board to take people home from the event. Please note that out of respect for our neighbours this will be a peaceful walk, with no banners or protest signs allowed. For further information and updates please see our Facebook event page for These Streets Were Made For Walking.

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Further reading:

Sisters are doin it to themselves, apparently

“This is a tax demo, why don’t you go back to your rape demo”

Glasgow City Council to turn walk in the park into legal minefield

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