We all have a right to feel safe on our streets
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Like many other women I have often felt vulnerable walking alone at night. Locally we have experienced the murder of Lorraine Cox in Exeter and we have all watched and read the unfolding stories of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, two innocent young women going about their business murdered in the most horrific and terrifying of ways.
We are lucky to live in a beautiful part of the world and recent crime figures for Devon and Cornwall show there has been a 9.7% decrease in crime up to March 2021. Statistics show that 89% of females who are murdered are killed by someone they know. Men who target women they don’t know is very rare. But unfortunately, the large-scale media reporting of the brutal London murders seems to skew our perspective and actually make us feel more in danger than we actually are. Having said that, I think we can all think about our personal safety and avoid taking unnecessary risks.
My daughter regularly runs during the evenings after work around Battersea Park in London and yesterday for the first time she said to me she did not feel safe. Some of the recent surveys I have seen say that between 40-50% of women do not feel safe out at night on their own. I think we feel far more threatened after the Sarah Everard murder because it was undertaken by a serving policeman. We are all taught to trust the law and sadly, current perspectives will have been changed on this after Sarah’s murder.
I follow some basic rules that my husband who has worked in the security environment has taught me.
If you know that you are going to be walking alone at night, especially in a poorly lit or lonely area, ensure someone knows what time you leave and when you are expected at your destination. If the area has a reputation for being unsafe then take a taxi or walk with a friend or family member. Always carry a torch and an alarm. Rape alarms are relatively cheap and can offer some sort of deterrence. Pick your route carefully, avoid dark unlit paths, stick to major routes that are busy and are more likely to have cameras on them. Always be aware of your surroundings, if you feel unsafe in an area then remove your headphones and take your hood down so you can increase your own vigilance.
If you think you are being followed, do something about it like seeking shelter with others or remaining in a public place. If you feel safe enough to double back on yourself or stop to let the individual pass you, this can often be an excuse for some quiet window shopping and will offer some reassurance. Keep the individual where you can see them. Quicken up and slow down in a public area and see if the person you are suspicious of does the same. If you are still feeling vulnerable and there is no public place to escape, call the police and ring on a doorbell where there are lights on and seek sanctuary.
It is ultimately very sad that women feel they have to go to these lengths to feel safe and I would hope that our education system can start to consider looking at how we can influence the culture of respect and better understanding of how we should treat one another at a younger age. This problem is not purely about women, men can feel the exact same feelings on our streets. Men can also play their part, when they spot a woman walking alone at night, do not follow them, especially if you are slowly gaining on the women in front of you. Cross the road and keep a distance to avoid any woman feeling nervous or scared. Thankfully these incidents are very rare but we all have a right to feel safe on our streets.