Woodbridge held one of very few police-sanctioned vigils in Suffolk on 13 March, the wake of the Sarah Everard murder.
About twenty people – masked and socially distanced – gathered together as dusk fell outside the Shire Hall in the centre of Woodbridge to light candles, remember Sarah Everard and recognise the risks women face every day, just for being women. A 118 second silence was held by Jane Basham – that is, one second for every woman known to be killed by a man in Britain last year.
Speaking as Woodbridge County Councillor, and LDGI Group Spokesperson for Women, I said:
We’re gathered here to remember Sarah Everard.
We’re gathered to recognise all the women of Britain for whom public spaces are not a place of safety. Women who not only hesitate to cross a park at dusk, leave a pub, go to a club – but who recognise that risks can occur if walk down the road in broad daylight. It’s not a question of age, or dress or location. I was nearly punched in the face by four big strangers on the East Suffolk line a year or two back, threatened with violence because they didn’t like my hat. I was small, and alone, and a woman.
It’s my birthday today – I’m 63. And in my adult life – and it’s been the lucky life of a middle-class white woman living comfortably in Britain – I can think of at least ten incidents, ten serious incidents, which involved actual physical harm or the threat of serious harm from strange men. In one, maybe two cases, I think I was actually in mortal danger.
I didn’t go out of my way to court a single one of them.
The most shocking thing is? I don’t know a single other woman who hasn’t experienced something similar. At least once, most more than once. It’s Everywoman.
Every woman, but not every man.
I don’t mean to demonise men. Almost all men are good people – but how can we women tell which ones are not?
This problem is not universal. I have travelled in countries where I could genuinely expect to cross a park alone at night without fear of harassment or attack. And have done so.
In Britain, 1300 years ago, in Northumbria, they boasted that a woman could walk with her new-born babe from coast to coast without suffering any harm.
Enough is enough. It is time to make a stand. If it was possible so long ago it is possible now. Time for every good man to join with every woman to ensure our public spaces are free from harassment, from threat, from fear.