A sizeable crowd gathered in Derry’s Guildhall Square on Saturday to voice concerns about the growing number of alleged rapes and sexually-motivated attacks in the city.
The rally, which took place at 1pm yesterday afternoon, has been organised by a number of local women’s groups.
Addressing the crowd, Roisin Barton from the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum, described rape as “a violation of a person’s fundamental human rights” and praised those women who have come forward to report cases.
“We commend the women who have come forward and reported attacks in recent months,” Mrs Barton said. “We stand in solidarity with them and with all those victims who have not felt able to come forward; we know there are many more of them. Today we are breaking the silence.”
Mrs Barton also spoke of the prevalence of pornography and negative media stereotypes of women which only inflame the situation.
“Women in our streets and communitites are seen as fair game by sexual predators. We are living in an era when equality is skin deep... where women are persistently turned into sexual objects and sexual expectations on women, and young women in particular, have taken over. We need to reassert the idea that individuals have the right to own and control their own body. We need to allow younger generations of younger women to grow up without having to put up with sexual objectification of women. We will not put up with it.”
The speaker was applauded when calling for action on the specific types of support women need.
“That means knowing that they will be understood and believed,” she added. “That means hearing someone say the words, “This was not your fault’. That means having the chance to go through the criminal justice process without being re-traumatised. That means having the chance to survive and get on with your lives.”
“If we are serious about being a stable, nurturing society based on equal rights, then we need to challenge the politics of rape and rape culture. We need to challenge rape culture in our society in the same way that we challenge racism, sectarianism and homophobia.”