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Improving women's safety our goal: YWCA

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YWCA of Adelaide welcomes this opportunity to respond to a story published in InDaily regarding our advocacy work around women’s safety in the city during major events.

From the outset it is critical that I explain that YWCA of Adelaide is not running a campaign ‘against’ the V8 Supercar Race. The issues we are raising concern women’s safety, which is part of our advocacy platform. The YWCA of Adelaide undertakes a range of roles, including the development of women’s leadership, program delivery and advocacy on issues that are important to women.

Through our work with women of a range of ages and backgrounds we have identified community behaviours that impact on the safety of women during this particular event that is different from other public events held in the city. Whilst largely anecdotal, stories from women are widespread and disturbing.

There is difficulty obtaining data to assess what is really occurring for a range of reasons, not least are the delays that occur in women reporting incidents. Our 2009 Survey results, as quoted on Monday, show that only 1 per cent of victims who reported an incident in the YWCA survey had reported the incident to Police. It also stated that research shows only one in five victims of rape and sexual assault report to Police.

Many of these victims may choose to report many years after a crime, which makes it almost impossible to use existing crime statistics to illustrate concerns around peaks in crime. This is because if a crime is committed in June 2014 but is reported in June 2016, it will be logged in June 2016.

Our Safety Survey conducted in 2009 was a first attempt at compiling more information on the experience of women in relation to the Clipsal 500 to better understand the anecdotal evidence we were receiving. It has been followed by discussion with key stakeholders to examine the issues further. It was considered appropriate to pursue renewed data in 2014 to see if the issues were the same or different.

We are interested in understanding the impact of this event on women’s safety (actual or perceived) in order to talk about the issues differently – not as an “anti event” dialogue but in order to increase safety for women. This includes contributing to real and achievable strategies to make the city a safer place. As was stated in our media release: “One seemingly simple solution is to implement a secure taxi rank in the city’s East End, similar to other secure taxi ranks in other parts of the city. The obstacle to this is that a temporary taxi rank is set up every festival season on the eastern side of East Terrace. This prevents a permanent secure taxi rank operating year-round.”

Sadly, the approach undertaken by your reporter was misguided. We pursue an intelligent and genuine commitment to exploring issues impacting on women and their safety. Of particular challenge to us in this is that it not only portrays an inaccurate picture of us campaigning against an event that is enjoyed by many, but suggests an emotional , irrational and misinformed position was being taken.

Facing up to violence in our communities is not easy, but we seek to do this by engaging in conversations and researching the issues. Judging by the reaction to your reporter’s article, many women share our view that we need to improve our understanding of these issues or risk women being presented as emotional with a tendency to exaggerate their experiences of harassment or risks to their safety.

We will continue to strive for a more informed position through research and discussion, that in turn can enable women to participate in public events with equal safety and enjoyment, including the Clipsal 500.

Liz Forsyth is Chief Executive of YWCA of Adelaide.

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