Posted: Friday 14th February 2020
This month, Somerset & Avon Rape & Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS) has launched a campaign focusing on the chilling silence surrounding sexual violence against older women. The charity, along with three other organisations, have calculated there are approximately 176,000 older women living in the South West who have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives. However, only 10% of users of the Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Centres in our region are over the age of 55. This number should be higher. As a result, there are older victims and survivors of sexual violence in our villages, towns and cities who have not received the support they deserve.
There are many reasons why older women are less likely to speak openly about past and present sexual and domestic violence including stigma of shame, legacy of societal norms and not taking what has happened to them as ‘serious enough.’ This isn’t helped by the fact that older women are absent from many sexual violence awareness campaigns, leading many of us to assume this sort of crime does not happen to older women but let me assure you, it does.
These myths and assumptions need to be dispelled in order to help more survivors and victims. We need all work together to make sure that sexual violence services are accessible to older women and that police and partners understand the needs of older victims. For older women in the South West, sexual violence is happening and we cannot ignore this any longer.
Earlier this week, the Government announced new funding of £5 billion to boost bus use and bicycling across the country. The investment will see 250 miles of new, high-quality separated cycle routes and safer junctions in our towns and cities built as part of the Government’s long-term cycling programme.
Such plans are a step in the right direction to tackle climate change and crippling congestion but also in making the roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians. While local people in Avon and Somerset are really keen to cycle to work, many lack confidence, sometimes feel intimated by drivers and are not sure how to use the roads as cyclists.
Road safety is a topic that means different things to different people, and is still one of the most common issues local residents raise with me. However, what is always clear, is that everyone wants to feel safe on and near our roads. While these future infrastructure changes promise to transform how we use the roads, we still need to educate drivers and cyclists about potential dangers and precautions we all need to take. There are still too many incidents that involve cyclists happening on our roads and it is important that we continue to remind all road users to be tolerant of one another. For more information about road safety and how to get involved with Community Speedwatch, visit my website.