MORE than 260 Barnsley women reported incidents of sexual assault by a stranger or acquaintance in a 12-month period before the coronavirus pandemic, shock figures have revealed.

A total of 1,700 clients used the Barnsley Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Services (BSARCS) service in 2019/20 - the latest available figures due to coronavirus.

Following the death of Sarah Everard, who was found dead in Kent woodland after she vanished as she walked home alone in Clapham on March 3, more media spotlight has been put on the behaviour women face.

Lynne Casserly, chief executive at BSARCS, told the Chronicle: “When I saw these figures they were shocking - we need change.

“We need men to understand that their comments restrict women’s lives - harassment allows other men to hide in plain sight, escalating their behaviour towards women, leading to abuse, rape and murder.

“We will never change this without them doing their part.

“We need the support of men.”

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Carmel Offord, of the Independent Domestic Abuse Service (IDAS), believes that people now have to listen to women when they speak out as the situation has been going on too long.

She said: “I think that women and girls have been speaking about this for a number of years, and people need to listen, believe and understand what they’re saying.

“We’re responding to an increase in referrals and calls but this is likely to be a combination of Covid restrictions easing as well as the difficult news this week.

“Our department has never been more needed - please do get in touch with us if you need to.”

Jade Marie Fogg, a 22-year-old from Athersley, spoke to the Chronicle about her own incidents with sexual harassment, and feels it is the perfect time for other women to speak out.

She added: “It seems like we’ve just accepted what happens and we’ve changed our own behaviour but with Sarah Everard’s death I think that people have realised that there is a bigger issue.

“I feel unsafe when I’m walking home alone and even when I was in primary school and wearing a skirt men would make comments - it doesn’t matter if they don’t touch you, they’re still making people feel unsafe.

“I’m hoping that people speak out about it is because it shouldn’t be such an issue - it’s not about men vs women, everyone needs to come together and show their support.”