Women share thoughts on safety one year on from Sarah Everard's death

Sarah Everard's death sparked discussions around women's safety

Suffolk women and leaders spoke about women's safety following the first anniversary of Sarah Everard's murder. - Credit: PA/Archant/Ipswich Borough Council/Abigail Harvey

More lighting, police patrols and a focus on education are among the ways the region is working to improve women's safety in Suffolk.

Women in Suffolk have continued to speak out about their experiences following the murder of Sarah Everard last year and call for leaders and police to work further to make the county safer.

Miss Everard was walking alone when she was abducted and later murdered by Wayne Couzens, a Met police officer at the time, in Clapham on March 3, 2021. Her body was found a week later in Kent. 

So what has taken place in Suffolk to improve safety for women in the last 12 months? Four women share their experiences about how they feel walking on the streets. 

Abigail Harvey from Martlesham, 26, said: “I’d say I feel safe walking at any time of night, as long as the area is well lit. If it isn’t, I would definitely avoid walking there as I feel less in control of what is around me." 

Abigail Harvey smiling at camera

Abigail Harvey says she is afraid of walking alone in the dark, but is happy walking around if it is a lit up area - Credit: Abigail Harvey

Last year Baroness Jenny Jones remarked on the idea men should have a curfew in order to make women feel safer, a comment she has since said was not serious. 

Miss Harvey said: “Not every man is evil and men shouldn’t be punished for the fact they are men, just because some are evil.” 

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Claire, organiser for events on an ‘Ipswich, out and about’ page, who did not want to give full name - said: “I’ve only lived in Ipswich for a year, but have lived in London before, so for me, Ipswich certainly feels a lot safer.  

“Something I do, is if I go to the pub on my own, I always make friends with the manager and staff, that way, they get to know me and would know when I am acting out of character due to drinks being spiked etc. 

“I also never go anywhere on my own late at night, I will take a taxi or arrange to be picked up. If a woman is leaving one of the events, I will always ask them if they are walking or getting a taxi.  

“If they are walking, I will see if someone can walk with them so that they are safe."

Hundreds of women marched through the streets of Ipswich at the Reclaim The Night event 2019

Hundreds of women marched through the streets of Ipswich at the Reclaim The Night event 2019. Picture: Neil Didsbury - Credit: ARCHANT\DidsburyN

 

Gemma Moore from Ipswich said: “Nothing has changed. If anything, I would say it has got worse for women in general and in Ipswich. 

“I know girls who are getting more verbal abuse than previous, being treated more sexually and a friend of mine got needled when she went to a women’s brunch event. 

“I’m saddened and sorry to say no, we are not safe and nothing is being done for women’s safety. I no longer feel safe going out alone in the dark.  

The Reclaim the Night event saw around 100 people come out to make a stand against violence.

The Reclaim the Night in 2019 event saw around 100 people come out to make a stand against violence. - Credit: Charlotte McLaughlin

Founder of the Ipswich Women’s Support Network Charlotte, said: “It is my understanding that every woman, man and child should feel safe in our communities, sadly, realistically this is not the case. 

“As far as Ipswich is concerned, I believe a localised scheme whereby women feeling vulnerable or being threatened can call a free number or text to say where they are and receive immediate assurance or a free taxi/public transport could be a viable idea.

“Strengthening the battle against misogyny and empowering women to report any form of threat to their safety to the authorities/police, can only be progressive." 

Alasdair Ross, community protection portfolio holder for Ipswich Borough Council said a number of initiatives have been carried out to tackle areas around safety at night and education.

He said: "We have looked at areas that women feel most threatened and done more work in those areas, In particular looking at the night-time economy in the town centre so we will be doing a lot of measures and will continue to do so.

"We are looking at increasing the police presence within the town, which we are pleased to say the police have followed through with. There are more increased patrols in the last three months.

"We are doing something with the lights that we own, we are turning them on 24/7. We feel that is important.

The most important thing we are focusing on is education. It is important to educate men, boys and teenagers about how to treat women, and how they should look after each other as humans."