Women: How Safe Are We? - Tonight

The murder of Sarah Everard hit the nation hard and shook women to the core. It's led to an outpouring of grief... and anger.  Social media exploded with the hashtag "She was just walking home" as women shared stories of the fear we all feel when simply trying to go about our everyday lives. 

So- can this really be the watershed moment so many have called for? Can change come at last - and can we be safe?

There is someone who sadly knows this latest tragic scenario all too well. Lisa Squire’s daughter Libby was killed by a stranger, in 2019. A 21 year old student, Libby was on a night out in Hull with her university friends when she disappeared, after getting into a taxi on her own. Her body was found seven weeks after she went missing, in the river Humber and there was evidence she had been raped.

I was devastated, absolutely devastated. It's that fear that you have always as a woman... and I was thinking, there was no worse way, to die for her, she must have been so scared. You should be free, to feel safe, to walk down the road... and get to the other side safely, and there's 50 percent of our society that don't feel free to do that. And that's not right.

Lisa Squire

Back in 2016 Nottinghamshire police tried to help female victims of crime by making misogyny- showing hatred or prejudice to a woman- a hate crime, a unique move at the time. We spoke to their former Chief Constable, Sue Fish, on Tonight to find out why she was taking a lead on it. 

When asked if she would report a case of misogyny herself, what she went on to tell me was truly shocking. 

To be candid two of my particularly unpleasant experiences as [a] police officer were both subject of technically indecent assaults, both of them, and I didn't report one at all, and, I did the second one … I was a lot younger,  felt a lot more vulnerable,  there were no witnesses, it was a senior officer. He was very well liked, very well regarded, who was going to believe me?

Sue Fish

Sue told us the man involved in the second incident was from another force and when she reported it, it was made clear to him his behaviour was inappropriate.

It is a reality that the profession of policing, like other professions that come with a degree of status, will attract a very small minority of people who might abuse that trust, or that position. And I think it's our job as employers to absolutely root that out, and to deal with it incredibly robustly.

Louisa Rolfe, Assistant Commissioner, Met Police

The government is currently reviewing its strategy to end men's violence against women and girls.

They’ve announced an additional £25m for better street lighting and CCTV as well as a pilot scheme which would see plain-clothes police officers in pubs and clubs. 

And they’re spending more than £300m to help reduce court backlogs as well as £40m to help victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse.

Chantal Hughes is from the Hampton Trust, who support victims and work with perpetrators. 

Tonight carried out a survey and asked over 5,000 people about their views on women’s safety and the results found that 8 in 10 women feel frightened or cautious about going out after dark. Women also ranked being attacked in the street as their 2nd greatest fear after cancer. 

40% of women said they’d experienced unwelcome physical contact compared to 25% of men & 22% of women said they’d experienced someone exposing themselves in the street, compared to 11% of men. However more men (20%)  had experienced serious assault, compared to 13% of women. 

67% of women didn’t think men understood their fears of being attacked in the street. 48% of women felt women are less safe now than 20 years ago. 37% of men agreed. 70% of both women and men felt the issue was for both sexes to resolve equally.

Minister for Safeguarding Victoria Atkins told Tonight that “Protecting women and girls from violence, abuse and assault is a key priority for the Government." She said they will be publishing their "Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy" later this year, and that the government has also increased funding to make streets safer, and introduced "protective tools such as Sexual Harm Prevention Orders, Sexual Risk Orders and Stalking Protection Orders.”

For help and support you can contact:

The freephone, 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline Tel: 0808 2000 247 or visit their website on : https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/en 

Women’s Aid offer an online chat service and support  https://www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support/ 

The Survivor’s Trust have a freephone helpline T: 08088 010818 or you can visit their website for more information at https://www.thesurvivorstrust.org/ Julie Etchingham reports in ITV Tonight's 'Women: How Safe Are We?', on ITV at 7:30pm.