Women should not have to live in fear

SATURDAY night.

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Pub. Drink. Laugh. Dance. Kebab. Home. Was this anything like your weekend?

After I finished work at 10pm (the joys of shifts) I wandered off to meet some friends in the pub and then walked home through the Merchant City.

The same street I walked down at about midnight -Brunswick Street - was taped off in the morning and under investigation.

It had turned from a lively street in the centre of Glasgow with bars and trendy flats into a crime scene. Later in the day it emerged that a 24-year-old woman had been raped there in the early hours of Sunday.

It's no wonder that people were shocked when the news broke, given that there has been a series of high-profile sex attacks in the city recently.

The fact that the Merchant City also seems fairly well lit and busy - especially at the weekend - makes you wonder how a serious crime can take place there.

But sex attacks can happen anywhere, whether its Govanhill, the West End, a night club or at home. Crime can be perpetrated by anyone: strangers, friends, or family.

It depends on loads of different circumstances.

I'll never forget the time when my drink got spiked while I was out with a friend when we were 19.

An attractive older man had been chatting to us and there was no way we were turning down free drinks.

When the nausea and dizziness had kicked in the man had asked me to get some fresh air with him - but luckily my pal was already carrying my bag and dragging me home.

Who knows what might have happened but I'm glad I had someone looking out for me.

Despite unnerving moments like that, which I'm sure many people have had some experience of, I am never put off from walking alone at night or going out with friends.

It is common sense to be careful but when it comes to rape, the person who commits the crime is entirely responsible.

However, I do think that there's more we can do to look out for other people.

Last year, I interviewed chief inspector Graham Goulden, of the Violence Reduction Unit, who told me about the bystander approach. Night-time workers are encouraged to intervene if they see anything that makes them uncomfortable or suspicious. It can be as simple as asking a woman how she is.

This is not about telling women they shouldn't be wearing this or that or drinking too much.

It's just about taking a proactive approach against sexual predators and understanding that it's not the woman's fault.

There is no point in living in fear but whether you're at the pub, kebab shop or heading home, it's everyone's responsibility to take action against rapes.

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