Published 21 March 2021 | by Jillian Kowalchuk
The shockwave and anger after the violent murder of Sarah Everard by a police officer is fueling insecurities of personal safety, especially for women. As lockdown measures are slowly being lifted, returning to the spaces we used to feel safe feels even further away.
Despite International Women’s Day being celebrated just over two weeks ago, evidence is mounting that most women don’t feel safe. A UN Women UK survey showed 97% of young women have been sexually harassed, with about 80% happening in a public space. Safe & the City has been working on street harassment since the height of the #metoo movement in 2017 and has collected thousands of reports across London to draw key insights into the patterns of these experiences to better target solutions with our partners. Safe & the City was one of several organisations officially supporting Misogyny as a Hate Crime Bill entering into pilot phase in autumn, stressing the importance of police recording of incidents to capture these experiences and encourage further reporting. In response to tens of thousands of new users wanting to use Safe & the City, as well as this new policy, we have expanded our app nationwide. We believe further reports will help evidence the daily experiences of many women leading to better solutions to improve every citizen’s safety in every major city.
This transition into the places we once felt safe will increasingly become difficult without new policies, technologies and partnerships. Our Founder, Jillian Kowalchuk, comments “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in the UK to design technological solutions that are representative to safeguard all people equally.” She adds, “I started Safe & the City in 2017 as I believed technology was pivotal to help prevent unsafe experiences, like the near sexual assault I had while following a Google Maps route through an alleyway which first inspired the idea. After the disappearance of Sarah Everard, the response that violence against women carries a disproportionate responsibility for women to solve doesn't make any sense. Expecting women to change their behaviours, like not walking alone at night, are never going to prevent tragedies like this. Until we listen and believe people's experiences that will never be our own and understand the systematic disadvantages of groups, we will continue to play a role to perpetuate this vicious circle.”
Safe & the City launched our Build Back Safer campaign on International Women’s Day which continues to fuel needed discussions of how safety technologies need to play a pivotal role in our road to recovery.
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