We have been getting plenty of calls this week about the rape of a girl in Peckham, which came only a few weeks after the rape of another teenager that police originally said was in the same area – but then said took place elsewhere.
Alongside the sadness and shock we all feel at another assault taking place on a Southwark street, the situation is certainly confusing. The place where the original rape was first said to have happened was only a few minutes’ walk from where police said the second attack took place. Officers have said the two rapes are unconnected.
The streets in question – Elm Grove and Holly Grove, which are separated by a small patch of green space, do not feel welcoming at night, despite being just off bright and busy Rye Lane. People at a half-aborted vigil set up in the aftermath of the first rape last month said they felt unsafe there at night, especially when the art gallery on Holly Grove turned off its lights.
Southwark Council, while expressing its horror at the attacks and extending its sympathies to the victims, said this week that there was enough lighting on the streets – and that lighting was a red herring anyway: violent men don’t need the cover of darkness to commit crimes against women. With this in mind, the council’s strategy to prevent violence against women and girls focuses on men, rather than the environment.
The exact circumstances of both rapes remain unclear, indeed the location of the first incident is confusingly still unclear. The council says that Southwark remains a very safe place to live.
Despite all this, and the fact that the two rapes are unconnected, the apparent coincidence of both attacks first being reported very close to each other and only a few weeks apart is very unsettling and enough to make anyone uneasy. As more details become clear in the coming weeks, we hope that all people, and women in particular, begin to feel safer on Southwark’s streets again.