University emphasises student safety amid reports of street harassment

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Durham University has urged all students to prioritise safety amid a number of reports of harassment late at night in the city of Durham.

Since the beginning of term, Palatinate has received numerous reports of harassment, including cases of students being followed by cars and public accostment.

One student told Palatinate about an incident in the north of the city, recounting that “The street I was walking down […] was poorly lit. A car passed at the bottom of the street, the driver noticed me, turned around, and started to follow me.

“I hid behind some hedges, and the car stopped in front of where I was. They rolled the window down, and the men inside the car shined a torch out of the window, waiting for me to pass.

“The men didn’t try to communicate with me. There were two of them, middle aged, between 40 and 50. One of them was wearing a neon vest, and one of them had stubble, I’m pretty sure. It was dark.”

Another remarked: “It seems to me that there’s a lot more sexual harassment nowadays. Me and my friends get catcalled by people in cars a lot.”

The same student recounted how, at the end of October, they “saw this white car go past really slowly, like crawling.

“It was these two men, both white and middle-aged; they veered towards me and slowed down more. They both looked at me really intently; their whole necks were turned to face me. They never stopped to talk to me and drove away.”

Two students recounted a similar experience just days later, in the street next to the aforementioned case. “We saw them in the street before we were about to leave our house, so decided to use the back gate to avoid being harassed as we’d already heard from others that they were targeting students without real reason.

“We decided to take the alleyways behind [redacted] instead of the main street. As we walked behind the houses, the car followed along [redacted] parallel to us, revving its engine.

“As a girl and a survivor this was incredibly frightening.”

Another incident reported to Palatinate took place in early November. The student said: “I had just got past the bus station, when two men in a dark coloured car pulled into the road, slowed down to a crawl and ended up passing me.

“I thought nothing of it, until I heard the car rev its engine, and turn around by using the bus lane.

As a girl and a survivor this was incredibly frightening

“I noticed over my shoulder that they were slowly following me and looking at me. They stopped, and I heard the passenger get out of the car. I sped up to get to the roundabout, assuming they wouldn’t be brave – or stupid – enough to try anything in the brightly lit roundabout.

“The passenger was a slim but tall man, wearing a dark hoodie. I managed to make it to the [redacted] accommodation, at which point he turned off towards [redacted]”.

In response to Palatinate’s findings, a University spokesperson said: The safety of our students is of the utmost importance to us. Durham is a safe place to live, work and study and we are committed to making it safer still.

“That’s why we’re part of key partnerships such as Durham City Safety Group, why we work closely with Durham Constabulary’s Police University Liaison and why we contribute to the costs of a term time police presence.

“Our key advice on staying safe is: if you choose to drink alcohol, please do so responsibly; always plan how you will get home before going out; take safe routes home avoiding the river; and look after your friends and stick together when walking home.

“If students have any safety concerns, they can contact their College or the Police University Liaison Team via the non-emergency number, 101.”

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