A year has passed since the Whitby Road sexual attack and not much has changed

‘Why would you report an attack when the police can’t seem to do anything?’

A year ago today, we published the first of far too many stories regarding sexual assault in Manchester.

The 19-year-old girl was raped in an alleyway off Whitby Road after being approached walking home on Ladybarn Lane.

The attack happened behind Whitby Road

This horrific incident left Fallowfield in shock, followed by a terrible emotional mixture of disgust, anger and upset.

Calls for justice, petitions, and campaigns such as Reclaim The Night ran throughout the rest of the year. We were hit painfully with headline after headline, week after week as the sexual assaults and rapes continued.

On top of this, today, a Tab survey shockingly revealed that almost half of females at UoM have been sexually assaulted.

With the statistics dictating that things are no different, we spoke to a key player in fighting this horrific narrative, SU women’s officer Jess Lishak. She told us that a year on, things are slowly starting to improve.

“There are sparks of good happening as we see the narrative starting to change. It hasn’t completely changed yet, but it’s on the agenda and that’s a good start. People’s opinions are shifting and everyone’s realising it’s a sensitive subject.

“What we need for is more people to be active bystanders, if you see something happening and you feel safe enough, step in and help. And if you’re concerned, don’t suffer in silence, there’s a whole support network to talk to.”

Jess Lishak

Although it seems as if attitudes towards sexual assault are changing, the stigma against speaking out remains an overwhelmingly large issue. Remembering that there have been no reports of charges against perpetrators, Jess said fiercely: “It’s disgusting.

“Those victims who do put huge amounts of trust in the police by reporting assault are still in the minority. The fact that nothing appears to have been done in terms of justice makes the situation even more difficult.

“And for those who haven’t reported it, it’s disheartening. Why would you report an attack when the police can’t seem to do anything?”

As well as being appalled by the lack of work from the police, Jess talked about her disappointment towards the police’s latest response saying: “It’s insulting and unrealistic. The police see it all as a surface issue so don’t bother changing anything.

“We can’t be expected to just ‘stay safe’.”

Shrugging about where we’ll be in another year’s time, Jess said: “I hope we’re not in the same position, I really hope so, but it’s not realistic.

“For things to change properly, there needs to be a huge cultural shift.”