On Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week we must recognise the epidemic of violence women face in this country.
This week, my thoughts have been with the family and friends of Sarah Everard, as they watched her murderer receive a whole life sentence. I think about how afraid Sarah must have been. She was walking home.
My thoughts have also been with the family and friends of Sabina Nessa, as a man appeared in court accused of her murder. I think about the school children Sabina could have inspired over her teaching career. She was meeting a friend.
Today, I think about the front cover of Friday 1st October's Northern Echo, and the lives behind the photos:
I think about the advice given to women this week, to challenge lone male officers who approach them. Another piece of behaviour-altering advice to women who have already been told, for example, not to walk alone but if they have to, to walk busy routes in well lit areas, like Sarah Everard did.
Then I think about the future. I think about the women and girls who will go out this weekend - to the pub, to a friend's house, to the park, to the shop - and how they will feel about their safety. I think about the steps that need to be taken to prevent more names like Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa becoming part of our vernacular.
Back in July, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) published an interim report which stated that fundamental system-wide change is needed in the Police to tackle the 'epidemic' of offending against women and girls. It recommended that the Government introduce a full-time national police lead for violence against women and girls , and that it should be given the same priority as terrorism. In their final report published in September, HMICFRS make 5 overarching recommendations:
I believe the report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary highlights the Government’s continued failure to protect women and girls adequately. I fully support all of the recommendations in this report. I also continue to support calls for a comprehensive Bill on violence against women and girls.
The safety of women and girls is essential to society. Thoughts, prayers and kind words are no longer enough. Advice on when not to go out, where not to go to or who not to talk to is no longer enough.
The UK Government need to prove that they are serious about this issue, and soon, by implementing the recommendations of the HMICFRS report in full. I don't want to write another tribute or light another candle.
Recently, I took part in the latest 'Learn Live' session from UK Parliament's education team. To mark International Women's Day, the subject of the session was 'Women in Parliament'. Our discussion was centred on the experiences, past and present, of women in Parliament. You can watch the 30 minute session above!
The session is aimed at 11-16 year olds.