No woman should feel unsafe in her own community
Statement from Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex
If you have been a victim of sexual violence or abuse help is available.
Please contact Synergy Essex on 0300 003 7777.
For domestic abuse support contact Compass on 0330 333 7 444.
“No woman should feel unsafe in her own community, but the sad truth is that many do.
No women should feel scared or be threatened going out, meeting friends or walking home, but the reality is that many do.
The events of the last few days have brought into sharp focus something that is very wrong in our society, something we need to change. We must seize this opportunity. We must make a different society.
As we reflect on the tragic death of Sarah Everard and the national outpouring of emotion that has happened since, it’s clear we need to work together to make a positive change. Many people have much to be proud of and to feel joy in, but there are also things that can’t continue the way they are and must change.
The sad truth is that this abuse, harassment and violence should not be happening in the first place. Women should not be scared to live their lives, to walk around their communities or simply be who they are.
I want to make it very clear that while I am the PFCC we will do all we can to help women to be safe and feel safe. To be respected. To live their lives free of fear. I want women to be appreciated for the difference they make and the positive impact they have on our society.
I will not tolerate male violence against women. We must root it out, make it clear there is no place in our world for this behaviour, and stop it. We need to create a society where women can live free from the fear of violence which has a real psychological and emotional impact. So often women live in fear and cannot live their lives as they should be able to.
In Essex we have open and committed emergency services that do a great job. With partners we have worked hard to encourage survivors of abuse and violence to come forward and when they have we have put in place specialist support services to help them cope and move on while at the same time robustly targeting offenders to break the cycle of violence against women.
I have asked some of the services, which we commission to support victims, to help me hear from those directly affected. Over the next few weeks, I will be spending time with them to listen, to discuss what we can do differently and to act.
Tackling male violence against women has been a key priority for us in our Police and Crime Plan and over recent years we have listened to the experience of victims and survivors and increased our funding for support services such as counselling, advocacy, therapeutic support and Independent Sexual Violence Advisors. This advice and support from frontline services has been invaluable in helping to improve the services we offer and how we can prevent these crimes happening. I plan to do even more in the future and will continue to work with these services to improve this important area.
My Deputy, Jane Gardner, has chaired the Southend, Essex and Thurrock Domestic Abuse Board for the last two years and in that time, we have led the country by investing in successful projects to intervene with perpetrators to reduce domestic abuse incidents.
In the last year the team in my office has worked with rape crisis centres, police, health and local authorities to develop Essex’s first partnership sexual violence and abuse strategy. We are developing an action plan to ensure we follow through on the ambitions of that strategy including preventing sexual abuse from happening, supporting victims and survivors and ensuring we have an effective criminal justice system.
This includes working with schools and young children to help create a culture where male violence against women is unacceptable.
Working with the police and partners we are looking at ways to reduce the fear that women feel in their communities. Together we are applying for over £1m to improve lighting, CCTV and safety in our town centres through the government’s Safer Streets Fund.
While these projects and initiatives are working, much more needs to be done.
The number of rapes and sexual assaults that lead to a successful conviction is woefully low. It is important that victims feel confident to report crime, that they are supported through the criminal justice system, that stronger investigations are undertaken, and we need more successful prosecutions. We must do better.
Domestic Violence Protection Orders are a valuable power to tackle offending early and in Essex we issue more of these than anywhere else in the country, but we should be doing more.
Let us grasp this moment and respond to the call to make the lives of women and girls safer. It is clear that much more work is needed to protect them from harassment and abuse in public places. This is something that I will take up with our Criminal Justice Partners and government nationally.
We can be better and we can take action now.”