woman at protest

Text me when you’re home: Will our streets ever be safer for women?

A woman is killed by a man every three days in the UK. 

This is according to the Office for National Statistics which gathered these findings between 2009 – 2018.

The epidemic of male violence against women isn’t merely a collection of unfortunate strolls down dark alleyways.

It’s not wrong-place-wrong-time. 

It’s repetitive. 

It’s malevolent.

And as a 23-year-old woman, I assure you we’re trying incredibly hard to avoid the same fate as Sarah Everard, abducted from Clapham and brutally murdered last year.

But no matter what we wear, how fast we walk, or if we leave when it’s light out, it seems there will always be an attacker. 

There will be another breaking news story. 

No number of preventative measures enforced on women will tackle the root cause, because the problem isn’t female. It’s male. 

Don’t walk home alone. Share your location. Have your keys ready. Text when you get in.

These gender-specific rules for living are insufferable, yet women and gender minorities follow these survival instructions from adolescence. 

What does that say about the predatory culture that exists in the UK?

Our Streets Now (OSN) is an organisation demanding an end to male violence against women and gender minorities on the streets, from both an educational and legislative standpoint. 

Issy Warren is a 23-year-old campaigner for the organisation.

She discusses the importance of sex education in raising awareness and ending the feeling of shame that so many women have when they’re harassed. 

In particular, her role involves making comprehensive sex educational lesson plans for teachers to incorperate in classes.

Issy said: “Women are very much brought up to smile at people making us uncomfortable. 

“The fact that we don’t talk about sexual harassment, and we don’t teach about it means it continues being this taboo issue.”

It was a shock to discover that schools, teachers and youth workers are advised not to treat public sexual harassment of school kids as a safeguarding issue because the perpetrators are unknown. 

This leads victims to believe their experiences are insignificant, while perpetrators are taught that their actions bear no consequences. 

And so, the culture of not-speaking-up continues.  

OSN fights for legislative change that would break this vicious cycle. 

The founders currently have a petition on to ​​make public sexual harassment a criminal offence in the UK, which has reached almost 500,000 signatures. 

Hayley White, a 26-year-old senior planning consultant for JLL living in Battersea, believes her role is pivotal to women’s public safety.

She underlines the importance of building a female presence within male-dominated industries like the one she entered four years ago, so women can use their first-hand experiences to inform and persuade important decisions going forward.

Planning consultant, Hayley White, believes a greater number of women in the industry could change London’s streets.

Hayley said: “Women can feel safer from better planning, and the way cities are built at the moment is from an ignorance of women’s concerns in the past.”

She has herself experienced, as a woman, the result of poor planning.

Hayley said: “A personal experience was having to take a certain egress route after leaving a nightclub which wasn’t a safe street to exit on.”

She explains the venue was built in an empty area and lacked natural surveillance or lighting, providing the perfect opportunity for an attack.

She added: “That might have been something the council implemented to mitigate noise for local residents. 

“But, they didn’t think about the implications of how women would feel leaving on a street that’s dark, and not well overlooked.”

Hayley explains that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which is government legislation to determine how planning decisions should be made in the UK, doesn’t include policies to consider the safety of women on the streets, to her knowledge.

The lack of concern for the public safety of women in legislation is apparent.

Reform must be prioritised. 

Maybe then, women will feel less afraid to go outside. 

Feature image: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona via Unsplash

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