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Sarah Everard vigil planned as women share anger at safety fears while walking streets

Written by on 11/03/2021

Women angry at the disappearance of Sarah Everard have highlighted the challenges they face every day to stay safe and have planned a vigil for those who feel under threat on the streets.

As investigators announced that a serving police officer man had been arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with the missing 33-year-old, female social media users revealed they are often scared when walking alone at night.

Writer Caitlin Moran tweeted: “I am 45 and it is 2021 and I am essentially under a curfew. Like all women. And there are absolutely no exit plans for this. It’s just presumed women will stay home when it’s dark … forever.”

Many other women shared their experiences of harassment and assault and how they have adapted their behaviour when alone.

Some said they regularly message their friends to share their location so that they can keep track of each other and take alternative routes home when they feel they are being followed.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick sought to reassure the public in the wake of Wednesday’s developments, saying “it is thankfully incredibly rare for a woman to be abducted from our streets”.

She added: “But I completely understand that despite this, women in London and the wider public – particularly those in the area where Sarah went missing – will be worried and may well be feeling scared.”

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She said people living around Clapham and Tulse Hill, where Ms Everard was walking when she went missing, could expect to see increased patrols in the area.

Sky’s political correspondent Kate McCann was another one of the women who wrote about her experiences – her first tweet has had 75,000 likes.

She said: “What happened to Sarah Everard has hit home hard for so many women because we make the calculations she did every day too. We take the longer, better-lit route, push the fear aside for the voice that says ‘don’t be daft, you’ve every right to walk home alone at night and be safe’.

“Tell friends ‘it’s fine, it’s just around the corner, I’ll text when I’m back’ …but still we make a plan – Keys gripped between fingers we map the corner shops we could duck into en-route. Swap shoes for trainers in case we need to run. Keep our music low or turned off.

“Even being on the phone has downsides. One eye is always on the person in front or behind – would they help me, might they be a threat? Should I cross the road, would that make it worse? Are there lights on in any of these houses if I need to pretend this is where I live?

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A vigil was held for Ms Everard on Wednesday outside New Scotland Yard, where police gave an update on the investigation.

“You’re a grown woman and in no other area of your life do you feel so vulnerable. You resent it even though you understand there is a risk – however small. It is frustrating and tiring and constant. And yet sometimes, despite all those calculations, it still isn’t enough.”

Labour MP Jess Phillips tweeted: “Hoping with all my heart not to have to read out Sarah Everard’s name in the commons. Women should be able walk the streets free from harm, fear and threat.”

“I remember a man following me as I was walking home asking for my number once and I was like ‘oh great now I have to detour so he doesn’t know where I live’,” posted journalist and writer Mollie Goodfellow.

Some men took the opportunity of the discussion to ask how they can help to make women feel safer.

Both men and women have acknowledged that the way Ms Everard’s story has been received has created a gender divide, with author Rebecca Reid saying every woman she knows is “overwhelmed” by it.

The vigil, titled “Reclaim these streets”, is due to take place at Clapham Common bandstand at 6pm on Saturday evening.

Organisers said: “It’s wrong that the response to violence against women requires women to behave differently. In Clapham, police told women not to go out at night this week. Women are not the problem.

“We’ve all been following the tragic case of Sarah Everard over the last week. This is a vigil for Sarah, but also for all women who feel unsafe, who go missing from our streets and who face violence every day.”

The vigil will take place on Saturday
Image: The vigil will take place on Saturday

London mayor Sadiq Khan said on Wednesday: “All women and girls should be able to feel safe on the streets of London at all times and I know how shocked and worried Londoners are by Sarah’s disappearance and the developments in this case.”

Meanwhile, the Conservative London mayoral candidate has been accused of politicising the disappearance of Ms Everard.

Shaun Bailey said his wife and daughter “have to live in fear” in the capital but vowed that he would work to “deliver for the safety of women and girls” if he wins May’s contest.

Liberal Democrat rival Luisa Porritt said Mr Bailey’s comments were “utterly grotesque”.

Business minister Paul Scully told Sky News Mr Bailey can “absolutely” still run for office.

“Shaun Bailey has a plan for London in terms of giving the leadership on crime, on housing, on transport and air quality,” he said.

“The first thing people want to be is safe in their homes and Shaun has been doing a lot of work around (that).

“But we shouldn’t be distracted from the fact that there is a serious crime that’s gone on here.”

 Sky News

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