The celebrations of International Women’s Day were completely overshadowed by the horrific kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard and the subsequent scenes at Clapham Common. I am pleased the Home Secretary has ordered a lessons learned review by Sir Tom Winsor.
I also think the re-opening of the call for evidence for the strategy to combat violence against women and girls. This is an opportunity for women to have their voices heard. The Home Secretary said in the House on Monday that 78,000 responses had been received over the weekend and I am sure it is many more by now.
I have been stunned by the amount of correspondence I have received from women over the last week, recounting their personal stories, their fears and some making very practical suggestions. I have also had a number of men make contact, many with a very simple question, how can they make women feel safer on the streets, how can they modify their own behaviour so that they don’t cause alarm. There is no easy answer to that, but there is clearly a will also by men to make women feel safer.
This is so obviously about more than street lights. I have this week called for a Women’s Justice Strategy, designed to instil confidence in women to report crime, to know they will be believed and supported through the process, to make sure it is investigated, that the CPS pursues prosecutions and that we see sentences that are not unduly lenient. But it cannot just be about sentencing, the real challenge lies in how we change a culture where women are afraid to walk alone in the dark because of male behaviours. It is an uncomfortable truth that we need to focus on the perpetrators, and change their actions, not force potential victims to walk in pairs, in lit areas, without their headphones.