The abduction of Sarah Everard happened 2 miles away from my home. Clapham Common is literally just down the road. Having lived in London for many years, I’ve always been aware of issues around women’s safely. Also evey woman I know has had unpleasant experiences with either being followed or approached by strangers who wouldn’t take no for an answer.
I was appalled at one of my local male councillors whose response to Sarah’s death has been to promote a petition asking for more lights on the common. Women don’t need more lights to stay safe, we need men to stop behaving in predatory ways towards women.
A couple of years ago I was persistently harassed by a male neighbour who either parked in my allocated disabled bay or blocked my car so I couldn’t get into it. One weekend he blocked the ramp to my flat, leaving me trapped and unable to go out. When I reported these incidents to the police, they did little other than to offer him ‘words of advice’, although he had ‘previous’ for assault. The abuse he yelled at me, threatening to hit me, was recorded when I had called 999 and although a friend had witnessed the harassment, I was told because she wasn’t an ’independent’ witness, no charges would be brought.
I felt badly let down and my trust in the police was diminished.
On Saturday night the very police, whose colleague was charged with Sarah’s abduction and murder, assaulted and arrested women who were paying their respects at her vigil. How can their actions be justified? Why use such disproportionate force? Why didn’t they engage with the women organising the vigil to agree how long it would last? Were they actually looking to deliberately enrage grieving women and arrest them?
Two contrasting photos have been posted on Twitter. They were both taken Saturday, one shows police ’protecting’ male football supporters from opposing fans, the other showing a women at the vigil being violently pulled down to the ground and sat on by police. Why two such different standards?
One woman leaving Sarah’s vigil was flashed at on the common. She reported it to a nearby group of police. A female officer spoke to her, but as she was giving a description of the man, the officer was told by her male colleagues, “No, we’ve had enough tonight with the rioters.” Such responses don’t encourage women to report harassment.
This must change. Women must be believed and supported when they have been harassed or been victims of domestic abuse. Most of all, education for boys should start in schools to teach them how to respect and support girls and women.