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Manchester students’ silent protest voices rape conviction concerns

By Anna Mauremootoo

A silent protest against the low conviction rates in rape cases took place outside the University of Manchester yesterday.

The demonstration, organised by the Riveters, the student unions (UMSU) women’s rights collective, started at the Students Union, moving to John Rylands library, and ended outside University place.

Fifteen of the 16 protestors wore black apart from Emma Kerry, UMSU’s Women’s officer, who wore red, representing the 6.5% conviction rate.

One of the event organisers, Emma Kerry, explained that it is important to raise awareness around sexual abuse and rape.

“It is such a devastating crime and yet the conviction rate is so low, the sums just don’t add up.”

The protestors collected money for Manchester Rape Crisis (MRC) and received an overwhelming response with some passers-by emptying out their purses.

MRC is a confidential support service run by women for victims of rape or sexual abuse, offering a telephone helpline service and face-to-face counselling.

Anne Stebbings, from MRC, said: “It’s good for women to get together and do things because sometimes you feel like you’re the only person concerned about this issue.”

Often the emphasis is put on women and what they should do to stay safe when actually they have not done anything wrong, she added.

The Riverters want to make people aware that a large part of the reason that the conviction rate is so low is because juries believe myths about rape.

The event took place during Women’s Week which educated students on the issue of rape and included a street harassment workshop, a self defence class and a gender facilitating workshop

Since September there have been two incidents of rape in Fallowfield, a predominately student area, which has seen police presence increase.

Detective Superintendent Philip Owen of Greater Manchester Police said: “We recognise the risk that our communities face, and we are working tirelessly along with our partners to help combat it.”

Anna Padiarchi, a student living in Fallowfield, said: “It’s encouraging to see women taking positive action to get such a taboo issue recognised as a serious and problem.”

Anyone who has been affected by rape or sexual abuse can contact MRC on [email protected] or can call on 0161 273 4500.

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