'Don't be that guy': Sheffield councillor issues plea as women share stories of feeling unsafe on streets

Women in Sheffield have been sharing their stories about feeling unsafe on the city’s streets, ahead of a vigil this weekend.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 11:34 am

They are speaking out following the tragic disappearance of Sarah Everard, with a socially distanced Reclaim The Streets gathering to remember her and stand in solidarity with victims of gender-based violence set to take place on Devonshire Green tomorrow, Saturday, March 13, at 6pm.

East Ecclesfield councillor Moya O'Rourke said in a series of tweets: “Conversations like this reopening remind you just how much you shrink yourself, you ignore touches + stares and relinquish control of space just to survive.

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A Reclaim The Night march in Sheffield

“We simply have a systemic issue of men feeling entitled to women. It's exhausting.

“Reminder: don't be the guy who watches a woman be groped, watches her defend herself, watches the men leave & THEN go to her and tell her ‘if more women were like you, this wouldn't happen as much’. Stop putting the responsibility on women. Call other men out. Intervene. Help.”

Another woman wrote: “I don't #cycle home from work through Sunny Bank nature reserve cycle path in Sheffield after dark, because it doesn't feel safe to- so I take a longer detour to avoid. As women, we just accept this?”

Sheffield councillor Moya O'Rourke

A third woman said: “I gave up using the so-called cycle route from Millhouses to the station. Too many isolated and badly lit sections eg near Virgin gym. And then there are all the road crossings.”

And a fourth commented: “Let’s not forget ‘pretend to be on the phone and talk loudly’. When I lived in Sheffield and I walked home on a night out, I’d always lie to my mum and say I got a taxi. When I worked at a pub a male colleague had to walk me home. This shouldn’t happen.”

It is more than 40 years since The first Reclaim The Night marches were held in response to the Yorkshire Ripper murders, leading many to question why more has not been done in the intervening years.

One woman who took part back then tweeted: “I walked through Sheffield jeered by men standing in pub doorways. What's changed, really? Anything?”

Hundreds of people took part in the last Reclaim The Night march through Sheffield, organised in November 2019 by Sheffield University Students’ Union.

Lily Grimshaw, women's officer at the union, said: “The news of Sarah Everard’s disappearance this week has been completely devastating and our thoughts go out to her family and friends.

"What happened to Sarah has hit home hard for so many women because we make the calculations she did every day too. We take the longer, better-lit route, push the fear aside for the voice that says ‘don't be daft, you've every right to walk home alone at night and be safe’.

"Women should always feel safe, yet we are repeatedly expected to change our behaviour to reduce the risk of being assaulted or attacked.”

Ms Grimshaw added that men must take responsibility too for women’s safety and recognise that violence against women and girls is ‘underpinned by everyday sexism’, like misogynistic jokes, language and attitude.

“Whilst our work at Sheffield Students’ Union helps to educate students about these issues, violence against women needs more resources and action taken against it from institutions, government, and individuals,” she said.