An alleyway in Headingley situated next to the Emerald stadium began receiving mass attention when a Twitter user warned individuals to avoid the path after she had been sexually assaulted there.
In the victim’s tweet, she explained that she was walking through the alleyway when a “group of boys grabbed and pushed [her] to the floor and took off [her] joggers”.
Fortunately, she was able to escape. However, her assault shone a light on the longstanding unsafe nature of the alleyway and its notoriety for violent attacks and sexual assaults.
Thus, a petition was created by Bethany Welsh, a post grad Leeds Beckett student, advocating the necessity for safety measures to be implemented which has gained momentum with almost 10,000 signatures.
Bethany spoke to Her Campus expressing her frustration over these incidents: “I couldn’t believe that it was happening to be honest. I have heard and seen a lot of cases.”
She explained that no actions have been taken by the authorities despite a history of sexual assaults in the alleyway. After reading the tweet mentioned earlier, she thought “enough is enough” and proceeded to draw up the petition.
As well as the petition, a group was set up in order to tackle the problem head on. ‘Reclaiming Headingley Stadium Alleyway’ on Facebook launched their campaign and planned a protest which took place on the 30th October.
Rhiannon, one of the members who helped to organise the protest, described that she felt that it was like “a breaking point” seeing the post on social media.
Rhiannon explained her frustration, and her reasons for being so active in the organisation of the protest by saying, “…we still have this problem where, predominantly women, are having to change their routine because they can’t walk home through certain areas. They have to be the ones looking out for themselves and it just really, really angers me.”
When asked about the protest, especially in terms of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, she discussed the importance of being proactive, even in times of difficulty. “I (Rhiannon) understand that COVID is an incredibly important thing… but I hate this attitude, that a lot of people have, that we can’t deal with other issues whilst COVID is going, and I don’t think that’s true.”
After the protest, the ‘Reclaiming The Headingley Stadium Alleyway’ group also held a vigil in which they lit 466 tea lights along the alleyway. Each tea light was lit to represent a report offence (either violent or sexual) from August 2020.
Image courtesy of @reclaimheadingleystadiumalleway
When asked about the vigil, Rhiannon explained, “One of our campaigners George came up with the idea. It’s quite hard to comprehend such a large number in your head… so we wanted to have something that was more hands on but quiet and engaging.”
Since the protest took place, the team at ‘Reclaiming The Headingley Stadium Alleyway’ have been invited to meetings with local councillors and MPs to discuss future help and potential solutions. Rhiannon did explain that there is no immediate solution to this issue and that discussions are still ongoing.
Looking towards the future, the ‘Reclaiming’ group have plans to work on other problem areas across Leeds, starting in Leeds North West, mapping out and highlighting areas that the police and local authorities may not necessarily be aware of.
Additionally, Fresh2Death has teamed up with True Security Solutions to patrol the alleyway every day of the week from 6pm to 11pm as a temporary solution. They have set up a GoFundMe page for donations to cover the wages of the security team members.
❗HEADINGLEY/BURLEY ALLEYWAY❗️ You will have seen stories circulating on socials about sexual assaults & attacks that have taken place down the alleyway behind Headingley stadium, one used by a lot of students. Upon discussions with staff at the stadium, this happens more often than we knew. The fact that sexual assault warnings are having to be put in a student area because of twisted individuals is not okay. Students have already been dealt a shit hand this year & having to avoid areas due to fear of being attacked or raped is not okay. We want to try & help. We have teamed up with @truesecuritysolutions & will be putting SIA badged security on the alleyway between 6pm & 11pm every night starting TONIGHT. The guys there have been incredible & have sorted us a discounted rate that allows us to afford to be able to do this. You guys have supported our events throughout these tough times & we want to repay that support. The member of security will be patrolling the alleyway & will happily walk you & your friends down there so you feel safe. In the 5 hour period, they will either be walking down the alley or at one of the ends. They will be wearing full orange high vis as in the photo. They will also alert police to any suspicious activity. True Security will also send one of their patrol cars down to check the area on occasions for extra security throughout each night. We will work towards increasing the security to two members per night to ensure complete safety down there. This is launching TONIGHT (27th Oct). We are going to cover the cost of the securities wage moving forward. However, we have set up a GoFundMe (link in bio) for anyone who can donate. Any money raised will go towards the security wages. We will cover the rest. If we raise more than needed, we’ll add additional security & increase their hours. Anything raised thereafter, will be donated to a charity TBC that looks after young people who have been victims of sexual assaults. If you are a student don’t donate more than £1 unless can afford to. We’ll be working hard in the background on a more permanent solution to make this safe. If anyone has any questions/suggestions DM us. Please share ❤
Image courtesy of @fresh2deathuk
No matter where you are, you can support the campaign. Whether that be following the social media (links provided below) of the ‘Reclaiming The Headingley Stadium Alleyway’ group, sharing the word with friends and locals about areas of concern, or signing the petition or donating to the GoFundMe page, every little thing helps to make a difference.
Support or get in touch with the Reclaiming The Headingley Stadium Alleyway group here:
Words By: Ellis Idris and Alice Mason
Edited By: Emilie Bolt