Women's safety: The Comet's campaign to tackle violence and harassment

Council leaders Sharon Taylor and Elizabeth Dennis-Harburg are supporting the Comet's campaign for women's safety

Council leaders Sharon Taylor and Elizabeth Dennis-Harburg are supporting the Comet's campaign for the safety of women and girls - Credit: Stevenage Borough Council/North Herts Council/Thinkstock

As part of our relaunch of the Comet, we are also launching our campaign for the safety of women and girls against abuse and harassment.

Women's safety has been at the forefront of the news recently, following the tragic kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard at the hands of a serving Met police officer.

Incidents like this draw attention to the dangers women face when walking alone in public, especially at night, but violence and verbal abuse of women is not limited to the streets.

Our area is home to Stevenage Against Domestic Abuse (SADA), which is based at Stevenage Borough Council and helps support all victims of domestic abuse - an issue which disproportionately affects women.

Domestic abuse can include controlling coercive or threatening behaviour, as well as physical or sexual violence.

For the first time ever, the Comet has a female editor and an all-female reporting team, so we are especially passionate about this issue and keen to help make a difference.

Our campaign is supported by the leaders of Stevenage Borough Council and North Herts Council - who, as women in prominent public roles, have also experienced abuse and harassment.

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Stevenage Borough Council leader Cllr Sharon Taylor said: "‘In the light of recent tragic events, it is more important than ever that we renew our efforts to ensure that we tackle violence against women and girls and do all we can to ensure that people are safe and feel safe on our streets and in our neighbourhoods. 

Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor

Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor - Credit: Stevenage Council

"For many years now Stevenage has taken a robust and compassionate approach to tackling domestic abuse, shaping the services we deliver with the help of our victims and survivors.  But there is always more to be done and the pandemic has seen an unprecedented increase in incidents and in those seeking our help.

"We welcome the Comet campaign on safety for women and girls and look forward to a wider dialogue with all those public, voluntary and private agencies that can work together to achieve more than we would all working on our own. 

"We should all work on the principle that none of us can feel safe until all of us can feel safe."

North Herts Council leader Cllr Elizabeth Dennis-Harburg said:  “Every woman deserves to feel safe, whether in their home, workplace, community, or commuting.

Councillor Elizabeth Dennis-Harburg, leader of North Hertfordshire District Council

Councillor Elizabeth Dennis-Harburg, leader of North Hertfordshire District Council - Credit: Rebecca Stewart

"Yet many of us walk to the car, or home from the station, at night with our keys between our fingers. There are places across our district I will not walk alone in the dark due to poor lighting.

"Every day we tolerate casual misogyny, something which has become so endemic in our society that even some women have begin practicing it.

"For those of us who push back, say no, and call out inequality to be labelled as loud, troublemakers, difficult, unconventional, or somehow, bizarrely not real women.

"I am proud to be the leader of a council where all three political group leaders are women. We each have our own stories, and unique journeys which have brought us to our positions.

"We will continue to support the work of Stevenage Against Domestic Abuse, and campaign for the rights of women and girls. It is an honour to be part of the Comet’s campaign.”

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami, who recently asked his constituents to fill out a survey on personal safety, has also lent his support.

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He said: “Over the past few months, I have been immensely grateful to all the residents who have filled out my personal safety survey.

"It is vitally important that women are safe in our communities in Hitchin and Harpenden and as your local Member of Parliament I am campaigning to improve safety.

"Unfortunately, a large number of safety concerns have been raised and I have started to take these up with the relevant authorities.

"Over the coming weeks I will be sitting down with the police and local councillors to identify where broader changes are needed to improve safety for local people.

"If you have not yet filled in my survey, you can still do so at https://www.bimafolami.co.uk/form/personal-safety-survey.

"Anything we can do to raise this issue is welcome and I am pleased to be supporting The Comet’s campaign to improve women’s safety.

"It is so important that everyone feels safe whilst out and about in our community and both practical steps and increased awareness of issues are vital to improving things for local people.”