Greenwich councillors are asking women in the borough to tell them about their experiences of harassment and violence at the hands of men following the killing of Sarah Everard.
Women are being asked to fill in an online survey and are invited to a women’s safety discussion on Friday in light of the wave of anger and grief which followed the death of the 33-year-old marketing executive, whose body was found in woodland near Ashford, Kent, last Wednesday.
Everard vanished after walking home from a friend’s house on the evening of 3 March. A 49-year-old police officer, Wayne Couzens, is due to face trial in October charged with her kidnap and murder.
The case prompted fury from women who shared their experiences of fear, harassment and violence at the hands of men, with vigils held across the country, including on Blackheath. Police forcibly broke up a vigil in Clapham.
In a recent survey, 80 per cent of women of all ages said they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces, while 97 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds said they had been sexually harassed.
Jackie Smith, the cabinet member for community safety, and Denise Scott-McDonald, the council’s deputy leader, will lead the session on Zoom on Friday at noon. They will be joined by Detective Inspector Nina Ahmed, and representatives from the Her Centre, a Woolwich-based charity which helps women and girls in Greenwich and Lewisham who have experienced domestic and sexual abuse.
Smith said: “Violence against women and girls will only end if we address the men perpetrating abuse. This means challenging the social norms that allow gender-based violence to continue and changing the narrative around the way we talk about the abuse and harassment of women. Too long has this been framed as a women’s issue: the problem and the solution lies with men.”
Scott-McDonald said: “Sarah Everard, Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman. Every woman lives with the knowledge that what happened to these women could so easily happen to any of us. Whether walking home from a friend’s house or celebrating your birthday in a park with your sister, women should not have to live in fear of being attacked by men. No one should feel unsafe anywhere in our borough either.”
In a statement, the council said it wanted to “find the gaps in our services, what more we can do as a local authority to make people safer, and how we can play our part in facilitating meaningful change”.
Last month, 853’s sister website The Charlton Champion revealed that Greenwich refused an application for funds to install new lighting in Charlton Park, despite complaints that the area was unsafe for women. The money would have come from funds handed over by developers, which have to be spent on community improvements.
In a survey by the Friends of Charlton Park, 54 people called for better lighting in the park. “The park is not safe for women after dark right now,” one respondent to the survey said, while another said more lighting would encourage women to play sport. A council spokesperson said that there needed to be “proper discussion, consultation and consideration before an application for funding can be submitted”.
Women can share their experiences and sign up for the Zoom session at royalgreenwich.gov.uk/violenceagainstwomen.
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