2021 was a ‘watershed moment’ for women’s safety, activist says

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Last year was a “watershed moment” for women’s safety, after a series of high-profile murders put male violence in the spotlight, a charity leader and campaigner has said.

Andrea Simon, leader of the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) coalition, said 2021 had been an “unprecedented year”, but said efforts to further protect women had not gone far enough.

It came after a year that saw the kidnapping, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by off-duty police officer Wayne Couzens, the alleged murder-suicide of Gracie Spinks by her alleged stalker Michael Sellars and the conviction of Danyal Hussein for the murder of sisters. Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman in 2020.

The deaths of police community support officer Julia James and teacher Sabina Nessa were also the subject of high-profile murder investigations this year. Male suspects have been charged in each case.

Ms Simon told the PA news agency: ‘We have had case after case of high profile murders and murders of women.

People looking at floral tributes left at the bandstand in Clapham Common, London, for Sarah Everard (Victoria Jones/PA) / PA wire

“But it has also been an unprecedented year in terms of the amount of violence against women and girls, which means that for many it feels like a watershed moment, as if there is now an opportunity to really do something. something to end violence against women.

“However, I think many of the solutions and responses from the government and the criminal justice system have missed the mark.

“We didn’t go as far as we should have. And we haven’t moved as quickly to make things better for women and girls who report abuse.

The murder of marketing manager Ms Everard, 33, in Clapham, south London, sparked a wave of protests against women’s safety and prompted an additional 180,000 contributions to the government’s strategy against violence against women and girls.

Sarah Everard was murdered by off-duty police officer Wayne Couzens (Family handout/PA) / PA Media

This has resulted in a range of new measures being put in place, including a public campaign “focused on creating behavioral change” to challenge misogyny in society, as well as pledges to ensure police know how to respond effectively to allegations.

The government also said it would consider whether street design features could help improve personal safety in public.

And its first rape review, also published this summer, has seen the rollout of justice scorecards designed to show how well cases are being handled, and a focus on investigating the suspect’s behavior rather than on the alleged victim, as well as an apology and a pledge to reverse his dismal rape record.

Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman were murdered by Danyal Hussein (Metropolitan Police/PA) / PA wire

Ms Simon said: ‘It’s not a new issue – but we’re talking about it now.

“Even though we have these conversations, the conversations haven’t focused on male behavior and how we can deal with male abusers.

“Many government responses – for example, increased CCTV and street lighting – are still forcing women and girls to change their behavior and modify where and when they go, in order to protect themselves.

“We can’t do that – the focus needs to be on preventing and addressing male violence.”

Members of the public attend a vigil in memory of Sabina Nessa, who was killed in September (Jonathan Brady/PA) / PA wire

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said it was not right for women and girls to feel the need to change their route home, or the clothes they wear, in order to feel safe men.

He said: “We are going to tackle the behavior of men that causes them to be afraid, and that starts at school.

“It starts with telling boys how to respect girls and talking about healthy relationships.”

Mara R. Wilmoth