“Our safety is a right not a privilege”: online vigil sends stark message in light of Sarah Everard death

Written by Libby Shaw

Image: Michelle Ding on Unsplash

Speakers at an online vigil in Sheffield have sent a grim warning about women’s safety, following the murder of Sarah Everard.

The 100-person-strong vigil was hosted on zoom after organisers were told by police they would not allow the event to go ahead on Devonshire Green.

A total of 18 speakers, including the two hosts, came forward to express anger and concern about the little-changed landscape of violence towards women over the last decade.

One of the organisers, Gabby Willis, a freelance journalist who studied at Sheffield Hallam University said: “It is so important for women to come together and talk with each other and grieve with each other.”

The event took place at 6.00 pm on Saturday 13th March 2021 and lasted just over an hour.

The speakers expressed themselves in different ways, with some choosing poetry or planned speeches, and others speaking off the cuff.

Throughout the event, the chat box was lit up with resources, from national helplines to crisis centers in Barnsley and Sheffield and campaigns such as Our Bodies Our Streets and the Counting Dead Women Project.

On the list of issues brought up were victim-blaming, curb-calling, PTSD, and the sense women are forced to choose between a self-imposed curfew and risking their safety.

Concerns were also raised for black, transgender, and neurodivergent women who are vulnerable to abuse.

Eleanor O’Brien, a special needs teacher who works with autistic children, was a speaker at the event.

Eleanor O’Brien, 28, a special needs English teacher who works with autistic children, warned of their vulnerability. She said that autistic children may not always be aware of the risks in certain situations.

She added: “If you do know anyone like this, keep an eye on them.”

Hayley Carman, 38, an MA Criminology student with a background working in social care and the criminal justice system said: “During my research, I found we have loads of services for victims, which are needed and should continue, but nothing to help reform the people who have committed these acts.”

She went on to say that on average, six women will be abused by one abuser – meaning that the reform of one man could save several women from abuse.

Hayley Carman, 38, MSc Criminology and Criminal Justice student who spoke at the vigil.

She added: “There are men who abuse, who push boundaries and we need to somehow fix that before we can have any kind of change. We need to start teaching children about consent at a very young age.”

Moving forward, many speakers mentioned the need for men to talk to their male friends and family to push the change and spark a discussion.

“Men, you need to be speaking to your brothers, your dads, your uncles.

“Realistically, men will only take this on unless it comes from other men” said one speaker.

“This needs to be taken to the streets.

“Hopefully later, in the summer when we can.”

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/ or call 0808 2000 247 for 24/7 support. If you are in imminent danger, call the police on 999.



Written by Libby Shaw

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