WAR ON WOMAN – ESPOM…
Posted by Kat Heath on 21 Mar 2021
The recent murder of Sarah Everard in nearby South West London really hit the nation hard. Sarah’s life which was so cruelly cut short has prompted various conversations about women’s safety and in many cases has led to the sad realisation that all women go through a shared process such as holding keys in our hands or crossing the road if someone is behind you every single time we go out at night, be it coming home from work or simply socialising with friends.
As women we are all so familiar with the ingrained set of protocols which society has designed to help ‘keep us safe’
These protocols have been part of our lives often since pre adolescent years where you would be told every Friday night:
‘Don’t wear this, wear that!’
‘Wear flat shoes so you can run!’
‘Hold your key in your hand!’
‘Avoid eye contact!’
‘Don’t drink too much!’
‘Don’t walk anywhere unlit!’ etc etc and yet despite women constantly being told how to keep safe a shocking 97% of women have faced sexual assault or harassment (Guardian 2021) at some point in their lives.
This statistic demonstrates we are facing an unavoidable and inexcusable societal failure which clearly needs to be the responsibility of not just women but of men also.
WAR ON WOMAN
Local organisation War On Woman are a group of young women from Epsom which was founded by Kira Charlton during the coronavirus pandemic as a direct response to the increase of sexual assaults taking place around the Epsom & Ewell area.
This much needed and timely organisation are campaigning to end all violence against women and girls and looking at ways in which we can tackle this issue through conversations within our homes and action within the community.
1. STREET LIGHTING SWITCHED BACK ON
Presently War On Woman are issuing a campaign to ensure street lights are on throughout the night. Kira says:
‘We are currently campaigning for the street lights to be switched back on between 1am – 5am, as we believe financial saving is no comparison to women and girls feeling safe.’
2. LOCAL BUSINESS SUPPORT
War On Woman are asking various local businesses to create alliance with their campaign by displaying one of the organisations posters in their shops windows or car window.
Kira says: ‘This not only shows support but it also creates awareness, passers by will feel safer, more aware and that Epsom as a community cares about ending gender based violence.’
In the near future War On Woman will soon be launching campaign bumper stickers.
This will be primarily directed towards tradesmen and trade companies to help breakdown the archetypal stereotype of white van culture alongside catcalling.
3, LOCAL COUNCILLOR SUPPORT
The support of Local Councillors politically with the campaign is growing.
War On Woman currently have the support of 8 local cross party councillors. Kira says:
‘We welcome any Councillor, MP that would like to engage with us…to help shape a safer community.’
4. SUPPORT GROUPS
War on Woman are currently in the process of planning two local support groups.
One will be aimed at girls and one will be aimed at women.
This will be a safe space for women/girls to come together and share their experiences, seek education and advice which will lead to a higher self esteem and self worth.
There will be guest speakers too to help empower girls/women who may be victim of abuse, assault or harassment.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
As parents it is really important to create a safe space for young people to feel free to discuss various issues at home. Topics such as sexual violence or harassment shouldn’t be just limited to girls but must be discussed with boys also. Kira says ‘As much as you may speak to your daughter about how to keep safe, ensure you also have conversations with your son about what’s acceptable and what is not’
Taking the time to ask them questions and listening to their thoughts and opinions is vital in creating a healthy environment for your children to be able to discuss these issues. Think about when discussing this topic the term ‘victim blaming’ and how we avoid this rhetoric. For example It isn’t helpful or fair telling your daughter ‘To not dress like that’ whilst your son doesn’t have the same conversation. By enforcing this approach you are already suggesting that they are at fault by what they are wearing if they were to get assaulted or harassed.
It’s vital that for progress that we all understand that the blame always lies with the perpetrators of these crimes.
IN THE COMMUNITY:
We as a community can also help by doing the following:
- Spread the word about the work of War On Woman to friends, family and work colleagues.
- Spread the word by via social media channels.
- Get involved with any future events and campaigns.
- If you run a business place campaign posters in your window or car bumper stickers on your commercial vehicle.
- Call out inappropriate behaviour or discussions.
- Keep in touch with War On Woman and keep the conversation going!
- Most importantly share your experiences with War On Woman. Kira says ‘We keep all testimonials anonymous- its local women and girls voices that started our campaign and are always at the forefront. We care, listen and believe women and girls.’