We have been talking a lot in the Cratus office this week about whether we feel safe on our own at night. This touches every community in London and should be on the minds of all those that serve them. We don’t yet have the answers, but there some fundamental questions that we need to be asking ourselves, each other and those who can make a difference.
A no-go-by-night city?
News can depressing at the best of times. A flick through the headlines rarely leaves you feeling uplifted. But the current headlines about the Metropolitan Police feel like they’re eroding a deep-rooted trust, instilled from a young age. We can trust the police, right?
The ultimate safety blanket I have felt, since moving to London in my early 20s, is vanishing before my eyes. I don’t feel safe anymore.
I don’t know if that early-years mantra is true, and it’s a question that has taken me decades to ask. Male police officers are now on my list of things to be watchful for when out after dark.
That is a sentence I have written, then had to read several times, to make sure I mean what I say. Those childhood certainties are hard to break. But I do mean it.
Have you ever thought about if you can outrun someone, jump over that wall maybe? Or run into the road and try to stop a bus, because being run over might be the best option? Thought, ‘oh gosh, I should have worn jeans not this dress’… because they would be more difficult to remove. Put your keys between your knuckles and then worried they are not sharp enough? Shared your live location with friends and family, and then faked a phone call? Tried not to cry when being heckled and whistled at as you walk down the street? I have done all of this, and more. And sadly, so have all the other women I have spoken to about it.
You don’t have to walk far in London to bump into officers of the Met; they are a presence that wander the streets of London. But since the abduction, rape and killing of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer, I and many other women in London, have a new fear. Surely an absurd fear, that is not absurd any more.
At the time the Met suggested this was a one-off; an isolated incident. But it’s led to the uncovering of what feels like a cascade of failings within the force. The headlines keep coming. The level of crime among serving officers cannot be ignored. It may be a small percentage, but it doesn’t matter. The trust, the faith I had, is completely broken. ‘They will always protect me’, has been replaced with, ‘They are not necessarily trustworthy’.
“Most weeks there are two or three officers going to court for criminal cases, which tends to be a mix of dishonesty, violence against women and girls – domestic abuse and sexual offences.”
This has been widely reported in the national media, placing it at the forefront of holding public services, and those who head them to account. This is a role that the media take so seriously that they employ people whose job it is to hold the Met to account. In light of this recent suite of scandals it’s an odd flip, in my mind, that the media are taking on the role of law enforcer.
How are women going to rise and be empowered to live their lives when they constantly made to feel unsafe and afraid? When will we stop having to change our behaviour based on the actions of men?