by Dawn Exley, SCSN National Development Officer

We’ve all been affected by the news of Sarah Everard and her shocking murder.  While Sarah is certainly not the first women, nor will she sadly be the last, whose life was taken from her under horrendous circumstances, her death has symbolised a tipping point.  Women in the UK (and the worldwide alike) have had enough. 

It is undeniable that the particular circumstances of Sarah’s murder, the handling of ensuing protests and the social media debate, to name a few, will have a lasting impact on community safety and rightly so.  No longer will it be sufficient to arm women with rape alarms, emergency numbers and advice.  While these things are, of course, vital in defending women from potential harm, they are just that – defence.  What we want and need to do, as with pretty much every other area in community safety, is prevent.  Why do we not do more to prevent these crimes from happening in the first place?

The answer is complex, and in truth – it is not in the gift of community safety to tackle on our own.  Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) partnerships have been admirably driving forward an ambitious and progressive Equally Safe strategy in Scotland.  Community Safety Partnerships continue to link in to this agenda, but there is more to be done:

  • Community safety must continue to advocate for, support, understand, encourage and stress the importance of the VAWG and Equally Safe agenda.  One of the most crucial parts of this work is the understanding of patriarchy and misogyny and how insidious and harmful these are for both women and men.  Education for young people on these topics needs to be urgently prioritised in the wake of recent events, to continue to begin to make inroads in prevention of violence against women.
  • Be an ally.  The role of misogyny and patriarchy in violence against women are not up for debate.  It is well researched and proven and most importantly, vital to a preventative approach.  Any attempts to derail the conversation should be seen as just this and challenged.  Listen to the experts.  Listen to women.  Understand privilege.  Call out inequality.
  • The experiences of women (and all minority/specific groups) must be considered, understood and researched to inform service and place design.  There is a shocking lack of data when it comes to this.  SCSN recently contributed to the conversation with the Experiences of Community Safety research, but there is more work to be done.  The ground-breaking Science Book Prize 2019 winner ‘Invisible Women’ by Caroline Criado Perez has shockingly opened our eyes to ‘the data bias in a world designed for men’ and is hailed as critical reading for anyone in policy and decision making positions. 

So what now? Let’s show that the community safety sector in Scotland is listening intently, acting where we possibly can and approaching the solutions with understanding, care and compassion, because without which, we risk maintaining the status quo – and for most of us that is a terrifying outlook.