Police van in the sunset

Weekend Feature: Is Manchester facing a sexual assault crisis?

Is Manchester facing an epidemic of sexual assault? The Northern Quota's Meliza Sestito investigates in our first Weekend Feature. 

With approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men raped and nearly 500,000 adults being sexually assaulted per year in England and Wales, it's all far too easy to feel scared and on edge when walking at night.

Between 2012 and 2015 less than 800 rapes per year were reported to Greater Manchester Police. In 2015 alone, an alarming 1860 were reported. Either these attacks are increasing or more people are having the admirable courage to report incidents to the police.

According to a Freedom Of Information request submitted to the Ministry of Justice, a mere 317 people were convicted of rape between 2005 and 2012 in Manchester.

It has become clear that there is an epidemic of sexual assaults in Manchester:

  • February 2016, three women were attacked in Piccadilly, Rusholme and Oxford Road.
  • April 2016, two girls were raped near Sackville Street, in the middle of the day.
  • June 2016, a student was raped in Fallowfield, an area which has a frightening amount of attacks.
  • 21st September 2016, a young woman is attacked near to Piccadilly Gardens.
  • 3rd October 2016, a 24-year-old woman was assaulted near John Rylands Library
  • In the last 12 months, the number of rapes involving male victims have doubled.

These are the only ones that were reported. Only 15% of those who are sexually assaulted choose to report it to the police and part of me can sympathise with why so many victims of sexual assault do not report their incidents to the police.

In 2015 I was sexually assaulted twice on the same night by two men whilst in a nightclub. One young woman, who was just enjoying her night, saw the state I was in, put her jacket around me and walked me to a taxi, supporting me as my knees gave in and I cried hysterically. The police were attentive, they listened to me. They never asked how much I’d had to drink, or what I was wearing, only if I felt like I was ready to give a statement. My clothes were taken away in evidence bags and I was given a number to call if I needed, someone to talk to.

Sadly there was not enough evidence and because I could not identify my attackers, the case was closed.

Here I am 15 months later, I still find myself jumping at the slightest thing such as a leaf dropping near me when I walk alone at night, I check over my shoulder constantly, I rarely go to nightclubs anymore and if I do I stay glued to my friend’s sides.

I spoke to other MMU students and asked them how safe they feel in the wake of the recent attacks that have taken place in the last three weeks.

campus security
Credit: Toby Burton

Lauren aged 19 said: “I hate how in this day and age, I feel unsafe walking around on my own as soon as it begins to get dark. I knew that moving to a big city compared to my tiny town at home; I would be exposed to a more 'sinister' feeling. However, with the recent rapes in the city, I feel even more uneasy walking around the streets. I was also mugged in broad daylight last September, and as a fresher that is terrifying. More needs to be done to promote safety and awareness, for everyone”

Georgia, also aged 19, told me that, “In the daytime, I do generally feel pretty safe. But when it's dark I tend to walk faster and check over my shoulder, so I'd say I don't particularly feel safe at night. To make students more aware there could be workshops or classes to show the best routes to take and which roads are well lit.”

A first-year student, Milli, said something very interesting; “ As a student who’s new to the area, I definitely don’t think enough is being done for our protection. What’s stopping the universities and their unions from sending out something as easy as an email providing students with information about what’s actually happening in the city, and some contact information we can use if we feel unsafe or are in danger? The recent rapes are a serious concern for us and will not be dismissed as another statistic after they happen.”

As winter gets closer and the nights get longer I know I'll be even more cautious, I'll check over my shoulder more and I'll be carrying my personal attack alarm around with me.

But should it have to be that way?

For those who have suffered from a sexual assault, the following organisations can offer help and advice:

Manchester organisations:
Survivors Manchester – http://www.survivorsmanchester.org.uk/
St Mary’s Centre – http://www.stmaryscentre.org/

U.K based organisations:
Rape Crisis – http://rapecrisis.org.uk/
Survivors UK – https://www.survivorsuk.org/