Sarah Everard and making the streets a more friendly place.

The last 2 weeks London has been shocked and looking over its shoulder due to the sad abduction and subsequent murder of 33 year old Sarah Everard as she walked home on the evening of the 3rd March through the Clapham area.

Sadly it seems her body has been discovered and if it could be possibly more shocking, the person arrested on suspicion of the crime is Wayne Couzens, not just a serving Police Office but one in a specialised armed division tasked with the patrolling of diplomatic premises – including Downing Street, the Palace of Westminster, as well as foreign embassies in London.  It seems that he had been on duty at the American Embassy on the 3rd of March and his shift only finished a short time before Sarah was last seen and as can been on the map below, the embassy isn’t that far away from the Clapham district of London.

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I have spent much of the last week feeling afraid for Sarah Everard, and it’s heartbreaking for Sarah’s friends and family. London’s streets are the streets I live my life on every day. It may be rare for women to be abducted in the street but women live with violence, abuse and harassment every day. The responsibility to protect women from male violence should not lie with women.

I’ve been reading comments and opinions all over the place regarding this sad crime though its worth noting that women are far more likely to be killed by people that they know rather than strangers with the majority of such deaths seeing male victims.

A lot of women have come out to say that they rarely go out after dark and when they do, they are scared. I have to say, I don’t think it’s just women. I haven’t been out alone after dark for 10-15 years; I still haven’t seen my street at night and I’ve been here for almost 14 months. I’m actually surprised how many people seem to go out at night at all as I’ve always nightfall brought out the unsavoury types. I’m pretty sure not many older people go out at night either or people with disabilities.

As someone who has both intervened to help a woman being attacked in daylight, assisted a WPC make an arrest in daylight and been relatively recently attacked myself in daylight, I’d never dream of going out at night. I go to watch movies at 10am or so, only eat out around midday and even my Jack The Ripper Walking Tours are (uniquely) in the day-time. I’ve never even considered going out after dark until this week when so many people have said it is or should be normal.

That being said I always try to put others first when I am out and about, it’s just sad that no-one else seems to do that to others or indeed myself. Whenever I am walking around, if I am approaching a lady or older people or indeed children from behind then I always try and either walk in the road or cross over to the other side so they don’t feel unduly threatened and if it seems appropriate I’ll do it when coming towards someone face to face. It’s not really any different than taking precautions with Covid around.

If you’ve never given any thought of how to make anyone but especially women feel safer on the street at any time but especially at night then try and put the following into practice.

  1. Keep your distance: ‘When walking behind a girl or woman at night, remember that the closer you are, the more threatening you seem. So make sure to leave a good amount of distance between yourself and her.’
  2. Don’t run up from behind: ‘Having someone run up behind you at night can give anyone a fright, but for a girl or woman it can be terrifying. Next time you’re out for an evening jog and see a woman walking ahead… cross the road or make sure to leave a good amount of space while passing.’ 
  3. Don’t stare: ‘If you’re by yourself, being stared at is intimidating and unsettling. Taking out your phone and focusing on something else can go a long way to showing you’re not a threat. Look out the window to focus on something else, or call a friend to have a chat.’
  4. Keep comments to yourself: ‘What you might see as just a bit of fun, or even flattering, is actually harassment and can be terrifying to lone women and girls.’ 
  5. Keep your mates in line: ‘You may not harass women, but if you stay quiet while your mates do then you’re part of the problem.’
  6. Be an active bystander: ‘If you notice a woman is uncomfortable with someone’s behaviour, show your support by being an active bystander. It can be as simple as standing between a woman and her harasser to block their line of sight. Ask her if she is OK, and back up anyone else who is intervening.’ 
  7. Share the walk: ‘Keep the conversation going by sharing these tips, and helping girls and women feel safer at night.’

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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5 Responses to Sarah Everard and making the streets a more friendly place.

  1. George says:

    Good advice. I remember hearing Alexander Armstrong talking about the awkward situation of finding himself walking behind a woman on her own, especially at night, and not wanting to cause any stress. He said he can struggle to keep his distance as he has a long stride and is naturally a fast walker, and deliberately slowing down can seem sinister in itself. What he always does is blow his nose as somehow it immediately makes you seem less threatening. He can then stride confidently past without giving undue alarm. Don’t know whether it works, but credit to him for considering it and doing his best to indicate he is harmless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes it can be difficult as I walk for a living, I’m not a slow coach. Normally I let out a cough or scuff my shoes loudly so they know that someone is around. I’ve tried before to walk slowly and maintain a distance and I’m sure it does look very suspicious and it makes me feel nervous just in my head!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great advice Stefano. We need more people like you around – selfless and always willing to help!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank-you. I often think of the police re-enforcements that arrived after I was assisting a WPC at Whitechapel and he said “You again sir?” I thought he was talking to the suspect but he was meaning me as he remembered me from another bit of help!

      Like

  3. Ankur Mithal says:

    Indeed! Sad to know that a fellow human being feels afraid amongst others of the species. Shame on all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

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