Crow survey results: Women share experiences of feeling unsafe on our streets

People in the crowd turn on their phone torches as they gather in Clapham Common, London, after the

The gathering in Clapham in response to the death of Sarah Everard and the safety of women, that is now a huge national conversation. - Credit: PA Wire

The tragic death of Sarah Everard has sparked a huge national conversation around negative behaviour by men towards women, and has led to calls for more to be done to make women feel safer while out alone.

We heard at the town meeting last week that Royston and our villages have a much lower crime rate than other areas nearby.

However, this brings little comfort to women walking through our town streets and rural roads who feel generally unsafe through fear of unwanted behaviour - or those who have been intimidated, harassed or even attacked.  It's clear that incidents of this nature can happen anywhere. 

Women up and down the country have taken to social media following 33-year-old Sarah's disappearance to share their experiences of being followed, catcalled and more, when out  alone. The Crow has also had several responses from women after we asked readers to fill out a survey online. 

One said: "I don't feel safe as I have previous experience of being attacked. Streetlights being turned off doesn’t help. 

Another said: "Quite often when walking alone, you get male drivers either slow down to have a very good look at you when walking to Tesco, Aldi,  or around the industrial park. They quite often shout things at you."

"I only walk in the daytime now. I felt more comfortable on walks across the fields and heath but less so now after Sarah. 

A woman who hasn't long moved to Royston said: "I don’t feel safe walking around even in the daytime."

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And another said: "Royston has large enough pockets of men, who in normal circumstances, would gather in/outside the pubs, walk through the town in groups, be loud, be “lads”- which isn’t harmful in itself but as a woman it is intimidating.

"It is not all men - Of course it isn’t -  but if women are harassed it’s by men. If men are harassed it’s by men."

In our Herts and South Cambs readers' survey, 45.3 per cent of people said they felt generally safe some of the time in their area.

But a total of 79.3 per cent of respondents said they generally felt unsafe when out walking or travelling alone, compared with 20.7 per cent who said they felt safe. 

The issue is now being explored on a national scale. On Monday, National Police Chiefs’ Council chair Martin Hewitt said: “All chief constables met this afternoon to discuss male violence against women and the experiences and fears that women have shared since Sarah Everard’s tragic death.

“While being abducted from the street is incredibly rare, violence at the hands of men is not.  We hear the anger about the pernicious harassment experienced by women that limits their freedoms.

“This is a moment for us to reflect as a society on what we can do to reduce male violence, abuse and harassment.  Many of the solutions lie outside of policing but chiefs were clear and committed today that the police have an important role to play.

“A key issue for policing and the criminal justice system is the effectiveness of our response to violence against women, particularly rape and other sexual offences, domestic abuse and stalking.

“Too few victims are seeing their cases go to court.  For those that do, the experience is long and difficult.  This has a serious impact on their confidence in the police and in the criminal justice system and means too many perpetrators get away with their crimes.

“We have contributed to and are waiting for the outcomes of the cross-Government rape review, which has been working to understand and address the reasons behind falling rape prosecutions.  In the interim, we have launched and are implementing a Joint National Action Plan with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).  It includes action to improve support for victims, help officers build strong cases from the outset and increase the knowledge and expertise of our officers and staff. There are promising signs as the referrals of rape to the CPS are starting to rise.

“We have implemented a Domestic Abuse Best Practice Framework with the CPS, and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service that aims to drive up prosecutions. We are increasing the use of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, obtaining more Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) and Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPNs) at court and strengthening the vital multi-agency collaboration to tackle offenders’ behaviour and improve the safety of victims. 

“Chiefs reaffirmed their commitment to the work already underway to improve our support to victims of rape and domestic abuse and help them get justice.  We agreed in the coming weeks to talk to our partners, victims’ groups and experts about what more can be done.

“We also agreed, again working with experts and partners, to consider carefully the role police could play in responding to street harassment. As part of this we agreed we need to further assess the calls for misogyny to be treated as a hate crime.  The Law Commission is due to make final recommendations on this issue later this year and parliament will be debating the case for police forces recording where existing crimes are believed to be motivated by hatred of someone’s sex or gender.

"We share the commitment of all those who want to see a legacy of meaningful change come from the truly tragic death of Sarah Everard and we will carefully consider in the coming weeks how we, as police leaders, can contribute to that legacy.”

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