Derbyshire woman calls for action and says women feel unsafe walking alone at night

A woman has revealed she’s often too scared to venture outside alone at night – after shocking figures show over 600 women were victims of rape across the county in the last year.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 9:40 am

Former customer service worker, Rachel Urquhart, 27, who lives in Wirksworth, says we need to look at why women feel unsafe and the many precautions they feel they need to take when walking alone at night.

It comes as a Metropolitan Police officer continues to be questioned on suspicion of murder and kidnap after human remains were found in the search to find missing Sarah Everard in South London.

The 33-year-old’s disappearance has prompted a swath of women to talk about why they feel afraid walking alone in the dark and the measures they are forced to take.

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Rachel Urquhart from Wirksworth said there needs to be a bigger conversation about how society needs to make women feel safe at night.

Rachel, who had previously experienced cat-calling on the street, said: "Women have to focus on avoiding things and not going to places at certain times because it is safer.

"To me, the issue is that the world just isn't a safe place at the moment.

"I think there needs to be a lot more conversation and reasonable debate about the problem.”

In the 12 months to March 2020, a total of 623 women aged 16 years old or older were raped in Derbyshire – compared to 30 men – according to the open crime database.

While Derbyshire Police recorded the number of incidents of crime, the statistics are not expected to capture the full scale of the issue as many do not formally report sexual assault.

On average, a woman is assaulted 103 times per day and 6.3 times as many women are sexually assaulted than men across England and Wales. Women also make up 94 per cent of recorded rape crimes.

Rachel said she feels uncomfortable travelling in certain areas of rural Derbyshire and won’t walk along public footpaths in local fields or visit the High Peak trail at night.

"Although they are beautiful places, at night they are very, very poorly lit and they are not very visible places either”, she said.

"There's a lot of bushes and shrubbery, a lot of places to hide along with being secluded and dark so I don't think twice about avoiding those places at night.

"The worst part about preparing to go out can be the thought of I better text somebody where I am going and is my phone fully charged and do I have money?

"I know men go through those sorts of stresses as well but I do feel like it's a bit more prevalent in women because I think it goes back to being at school and being educated on stranger danger and not to play out at later times.

"When I was a teenager it was drummed into us to be really, really aware when we go out."

She added: "I think it's also about making men aware of how they can perceived by women and how scary that can be.

"There are plenty of men who have never had any sort of intention of doing anything wrong to a woman, but it's quite problematic that a lot of men feel quite uneasy at the fact they have got to check they are being 'normal' – so they feel like they are not scaring a woman they might be walking across the street from in the dark.

"Personally, I am more likely to feel more intimidated by a man walking on the same side of the street as me, hands in pockets and face covered rather than a little old guy walking a dog and I don't know if that's wise because it is a bit of a generalisation."

Derbyshire Times Facebook friends shared their views.

Alicia Delaney said: “I’ve had so many issues with being followed, harassed and even images being taken of me. I have to be on the phone when I go out at night just so I feel a little safer. Birdholme/ Derby Road area is definitely the worst for it.”

Kerry Bexton added: “We do have a societal problem with addressing this issue, as its often women that are told to change their behaviour to make themselves safer – don't walk alone, don't go out after a certain time, don't dress a certain way, carry your keys spiked between your fingers... the list goes on. This only reinforces fear and does nothing productive to stop the perpetrators.”

The Derbyshire Times is asking the local authorities what can be done to make our streets safer. Please share your experiences and views with us.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Phil Bramley, editor.