Statistics revealed in a Freedom of Information request show that 89 offences were committed in the Hyde Park and Headingley area, with 78 victims being women.
A Freedom of Information request to the West Yorkshire Police carried out by The Gryphon reveal sexual offences are significantly more likely to be committed against women in Hyde Park and Headingley.
According to the released figures, women made up 78 of the 84 victims of sexual offences against men and women reported in 2018/19. The latest England and Wales Crime Survey shows that women in the UK are three times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than men.
The number of victims stating to be students has stayed relatively low, with an increase of 11 to 13 in the last five years while the number of reported sexual offences overall has more than doubled, increasing from 41 to 89.
It should however be noted that sexual offences continue to be a seriously under-reported crime, which can have a considerable impact on the above-mentioned statistics. According to the Office of National Statistics, 80% of victims do not report these episodes of sexual violence to relevant authorities on a national level.
Greater awareness has been raised around issues of consent and sexual harassment as a result of campaigns like #MeToo and SurvivorsUK as well as high-profile allegations against high-profile celebrities, politicians and businessmen. This could explain a dramatic increase in figures in recent years, particularly in 2017/18. It must also be noted that these statistics include both on-street and domestic offences and that they do not necessarily suggest an increased risk of sexual offences in the area.
According to the Crown Prosecution Service, sexual offences include “non-consensual crimes such as rape or sexual assault, crimes against children including child sexual abuse or grooming, and crimes that exploit others for a sexual purpose, whether in person or online”.
Amy Wells, Welfare Officer, and Catheryne Fairbairn, Community Officer, at Leeds University Union said in a statement:
“Student safety in the community is a key issue for LUU, we know many students have concerns over crime – specifically sexual assault – in these areas. We work with the local council and the police to keep students informed and increase our data from crime reporting through the University of Leeds Secretariat “report and support” system.
We know there is always more work to do. This year, we’re working with Feminist Society on a Reclaim the Night march, supporting women and anyone who experiences sexual violence and/or harassment because of the way their gender is perceived.
We want people to feel confident in their neighbourhood as well as bringing profile to the ongoing issue of assault and violence. We want to look into funding for a project on sexual harassment in the City/clubs and we’re planning some campaign work around sexual assault with the national organisation Not On My Campus.”
Data published by the Office of National Statistics in 2018 shows West Yorkshire to be one of the counties in England and Wales with one of the highest figures for recorded sexual offences, coming third to London and Greater Manchester.
A crime map provided by police services for Leeds North West shows the student-dominated wards of Hyde Park and Headingley have high numbers of cases of ‘violent crimes and sexual offences’. In October 2019, 134 crimes of this nature were recorded by the police forces in these neighbourhoods. It must be noted here too that these figures will include crimes that are not sexual offences.
Concerns have long been raised by students regarding safety in the area, with a petition posted online this year calling for more street lighting to be installed around Woodhouse Moor.
Several local initiatives have also been launched to promote street safety for the residents of Leeds, particularly women. Amongst them, it is worth highlighting Reclaim the Night.
This is a female-led demonstration that will take place on the 7th of December in order to protest the dangers for women can face at night. The demonstration was started in the city after the Yorkshire Ripper murders from 1969 to 1980. It is now held in multiple cities across the UK.
If you have experienced a sexual offence, call 999 to report the incident. In case you do not want to contact the authorities.
There is a Sexual Assault Support Line at 01708 765200 or the Leeds Nightline at 01133801285. Groups such as Survivors West Yorkshire and Support after Rape and Sexual Assault also provide support locally.
Images credited to Megan Ardis