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Keep a lookout around the bend

It's difficult to avoid the latest twists and turns of Covid 19 lockdown and testing policies, and the impact this is having on many groups of people, especially students just now. At the time of writing our church re-openings look set to continue but who knows what lurks around the next corner as 2020 continues it’s uncertain journey.

My newspaper today had a feature about our new found love of park life, and I don’t mean Blur’s eponymous seminal 1994 hit. It gave an account of a day spent by a reporter on Woodhouse Moor in Leeds, which I recall from my own mid 1970’s university days. This time of year it always seemed to be knee deep in leaves that you kicked through on the way into lectures. The piece celebrated the fact that parks are very democratic places, open to all and great places for exercise and enabling a sense of emotional wellbeing. However it also noted that there can sometimes be conflicts about how various groups use the space and stressed the potential dangers inherent in city centre open spaces at night. Beware of what, or who, might be lurking around the next bend in the path.

Safeguarding training often quotes research which describes the very low incidence of what we term ‘stranger abuse’. This is the proverbial person, generally a man, and in my younger days said always to be wearing a dirty raincoat, waiting to jump out of the bushes unexpectedly. The purpose of sharing this in training is both to provide re-assurance about the minimal likelihood of such an event happening, and to remind those attending to pay more attention perhaps to those closer to home or well known in our communities who may present a risk.

But of course we know that isolated attacks on single women in particular sadly do happen with some regularity and the impact is at the very least highly traumatic and at worst fatal. Therefore although we might comfort and content ourselves with the statistics, the need for continued vigilance, taking precautions and seeking support for safety measures in public places must remain a high priority as part of our community safeguarding agenda. ‘Stranger abuse’ may not feature highly and, like Covid, the statistics of infections per 100,000 may seem fractional, but the deep and lasting impact of both when they occur must never be taken lightly. We do well to be alert to whatever may lie ahead and take all the necessary preventive and protective measures.

Continue though to enjoy park life. At this time of year the Royal parks near where I live echo to the roars of rutting stags. Another group of individuals to avoid.

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