Enough is enough #reclaimthesestreets

Yesterday, I attended the @ukparliament and @unwomenuk online International Women’s Day event, where the focus was on their current initiative to make UK public spaces safer for women and girls.

As we were brainstorming the best, practical ways in which this could be achieved, the police announced that they had arrested a Metropolitan police officer for the suspected kidnapping of #saraheverard from the streets of London, and her murder.

This Saturday 13 March, a vigil @reclaimthesestreets will be held on Clapham Common bandstand at 6pm, close to where Sarah was last seen.

The following day on Mother’s Day, @reclaimthefightldn are organising a vigil in Trafalgar Square at 6pm and marching to Parliament.

UN Women UK’s recent research revealed that 70% of all women of all ages reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment in public spaces.

Women have been sharing their experiences on social media in memory of Sarah Everard to raise awareness.

I lived in London for many years as a child and young woman, and was repeatedly harassed, and assaulted a couple of times.

But it’s not just in our cities and towns that we as women have to be constantly on our guard.

I was sitting on the top of a hill the other day when a man suddenly appeared and came to stand a couple of feet from me.

It suddenly dawned on me that I was a very long way from the closest houses and people, completely hidden, and if he wanted to rape or kill me, he could very easily.

So I did what I, and all women, are trained to do in these situations. I stood up, walked swiftly away, removed my headphones, took my car keys out of my bag and put them between my fingers to use as a weapon, kept my phone in my hand and walked fast, occasionally turning back to see if he was following me.

My heartbeat didn’t start to slow until I got into my car, locked the door and drove home.

Every woman will have done this exact same thing countless times in their lives. Every mother will have trained her daughters to do the same.

This man might have been perfectly innocent. Or he might have been a rapist or a murderer. The problem is that we don’t know. And we can’t take the risk, especially not when men we are meant to be able to trust, like police officers, are capable of kidnapping and murdering us.

What is it going to take to make all public places, not just our streets, safer for women and girls?

Men, fathers, husbands, brothers, friends – we need you to step up and protect us. Ministers, we need you to prioritise the safety of women and girls.

Yesterday at the UN Women UK event, the idea our break-out group rated the highest in relation to safety was Street Angels – people who are trained to patrol our streets to protect and support women who are feeling threatened or have been attacked.

I want to see this in every public place in the UK and around the world. I want women and girls to be able to walk in public places without the fear that they are going to be harassed, assaulted, raped, kidnapped or murdered.

You can take action at unwomenuk.

In memory of Sarah Everard and every woman who has suffered violence.

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