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Woman walking alone at night through Kensington

Kensington and Chelsea council offer 1000 free 1000 rape alarms to promote women’s safety

Free rape alarms are being given to women in a bid to help them feel safer and offer a way to protect and defend themselves.

Kensington and Chelsea council is offering 1,000 free alarms to women and girls in the borough.

This follows an increase in the proportion of women who feel the need to take protective measures on a regular basis to protect themselves from being sexually assaulted.

Data by YouGov showed that in the space of three years, the proportion of men taking protective steps did not change, however, 9% more women did decide to introduce protective measures to their day-to-day lives.

Furthermore, 13% more women reported always or often feeling unsafe walking alone at night, rising from 38% in 2018 to 51% in 2021.

A spokeswoman from Empowered by Ashley, a company selling personal safety alarms, said: “If you ask a group of women if they have ever felt uncomfortable, vulnerable or unsafe whilst out and about, usually most of them will have a story to tell even if they weren’t physically assaulted.

“From being wolf whistled by a van driver, to someone walking a bit too closely behind you on the street, our society has imprinted the message onto women that they should be carrying their keys between their fingers, sending their location to friends and calling a friend as they get in a taxi or walk home. 

“It’s no wonder that women are turning to protective steps such as personal safety alarms, marking sprays and internet-connected jewellery.”

Empowered by Ashley launched in February 2021, and in the last ten months it has sold thousands of personal safety alarms.

While from a business perspective the company has grown to be successful, on a personal level, the Empowered by Ashley representative added that more women seeking devices to keep them safe has opened up some serious questions about why so many people feel the need for a personal safety alarm.

The recent increase in media attention to cases of violence against women including the horrific murders of Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard has also led to more women feeling defenceless and vulnerable.

Many now feel the need to carry rape alarms or pepper spray, and some have even begun taking self-defence lessons.

Empowered by Ashley’s spokeswoman added: “A lot of people like to put themselves in the victim’s shoes and try to assess what they could have done differently to prevent the crime, especially when they are reading it from the perspective of the media.

“Seeing this narrative in the media will naturally encourage women to feel like if they do not dress a certain way, walk a certain route, or choose more carefully about what time to walk the streets alone, then they will be blamed if they get raped or sexually assaulted. 

“This narrative needs to change as we are in 2021, we should be made to feel safe by the people that have the power to help such as the media, the government and the police.

“From making public places and transport safe for all women and girls to educating young boys and girls on sexual harassment and its repercussions, there’s a lot that can be done.

“But until then, this is why women are taking their personal safety into their own hands and why we have decided to create a device that can make them feel safer as they go about their daily lives.”

Rape alarms, which are small enough to discreetly hold or can be clipped onto clothing, create a high-pitched alarm sound to attract attention and call for help.

The 1,000 alarms can be collected from Kensington Town Hall, and are a part of Kensington and Chelsea’s five-year plan to help make women and girls feel safer.

Other councils in London have had similar ideas to promote women’s safety on the streets.

For example, Islington Council has announced an initiative to make all shop front businesses designated ‘Safe Havens’ as a part of its Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy.

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