Self defence class demand 'through the roof' one year on from Sarah Everard's death

WATCH: Full report by ITV Meridian's Mel Bloor

The number of women seeking self defence classes is on the rise amid growing concerns for their safety on the streets. Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the murder of Sarah Everard, who was attacked as she walked home alone from a friend's house in South London.

Her death sent shockwaves up and down the country, causing a national outcry against the rates of violence against women in this country.

Former police officer Wayne Couzens was sentenced to a whole-life term for the kidnap, rape and murder of Ms Everard.

Sarah's death also sparked a series of protests, with campaigners calling for more to be done to prevent violence against women and girls.

33-year-old Sarah Everard was falsely arrested by then-police officer Wayne Couzens.

In November scores of people took to the streets of Canterbury, marching under the banner ‘Reclaim These Streets’.

Protesters said they wanted to show their support for all the girls who’ve been victims of various sexual assaults.

One martial arts club in Reading has told ITV Meridian it's seen an 80% increase in demand for self defence lessons since the end of lockdown, and many women are seeking help to keep themselves safe on the streets.

Senior coach at Lone Wolf Martial Arts Academy Pam Tovee said, "When I was younger, my family found ourselves in a traumatic situation.

"I personally felt like I needed the skills to protect myself."

Demand for self defence classes for women has rocketed in the last twelve months

She added, "I wanted to become fitter and stronger and feel safe while I'm out on the streets and be able to protect myself.

"The demand for self defence has gone through the roof, especially after those two ladies who were brutally attacked, and killed.

"We've had an influx of women who want to do it because of various situations in their lives."

  • Pam Tovee says more women are taking up self defence to protect themselves

According to research carried out by the Office for National Statistics, around half of women do not feel safe walking alone after dark.

Findings from June 2021, also found two out of three women aged 16 to 34 years experienced one form of harassment in the previous 12 months, with almost half of women aged 16 to 34 years having experienced catcalls, whistles, unwanted sexual comments or jokes.

29% have on occasion, felt like they were being followed.

Another survey carried out in Kent, found the majority of women surveyed feel they need to take precautions whilst walking home at night.

Plans for a new 888 phone service aimed at protecting women who feel vulnerable walking home has also generated a lot of support.

Women's safety protests were held across the UK following Sarah Everard's murder

Speaking about the government's Tackling Violence against women and girls strategy, Home Secretary Priti Patel said, "The safety of everyone in our country, wherever they are, is my priority.

"Certain crimes disproportionately affect women and girls, manifest themselves in different ways, and demand targeted solutions."A number of towns and cities are to receive money from the Government's Safer Streets Scheme, announced by the Home Secretary Priti Patel.

£426,000, has been awarded to Oxford, focusiung on the city centre and places of travel to and from the centre, including Abingdon Town Centre, Witney and parts of South Oxfordshire.

This funding will be used to help protect residents from street harassment, stalking, sexual assault, rape, unwanted sexual touching and predatory behaviour.

Oxford has been awarded £426,000 from the Government's Safer Streets Scheme

Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Barber said: “We recognise the fear and concerns some women will have in making these trips.

"Key areas for this work will focus on communications, engagement, physical improvements, guardianship and transport.

“It goes without saying that everyone has the right to feel safe in their communities and these projects are just part of our work to make Thames Valley an even safer place to live.”

Measures such as nightclub safe zones, more CCTV and outdoor phone charging stations are also to be introduced in Oxford.