Hitchin and Harpenden MP: 'No one should live in fear of intimidation or violence'

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami.

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Harpenden and Hitchin MP Bim Afolami offers his thoughts on Sarah Everard's murder and the issue of women's safety.

"The tragic murder of Sarah Everard has shaken us all. Many of us have been deeply affected by the conversations about women’s safety that have followed Sarah’s death, and feel great sadness, frustration and even anger.

"We must be united in our determination to address the underlying societal issues for women to feel safe and make every part of the criminal justice system work to protect and defend them. 

"Sexual harassment, intimidation and misogynistic hate crimes are completely unacceptable, regardless of whether this abuse takes place in public spaces or behind closed doors. The fate of Sarah Everard has sparked a wider debate about personal safety and targeted abuse.

"Many women and girls have shared their silent fears, frightening experiences, and close calls. Living under persistent threat of harm in one’s own home, workplace or neighbourhood must be exhausting and traumatising.

Sarah Everard was walking home alone when she disappeared.

Sarah Everard was walking home alone when she disappeared. - Credit: MPS

"The anxiety felt by personal safety has been normalised to some extent, and may often go undiscussed, underrepresented and, therefore, unaddressed. When every parting sentence to a friend is, 'text me when you get home', or when we hear 'nothing happened, but…', there is a stark indication of normalised risk to women and girls. 

"We must listen with open ears and make a change. Since the publication of the Hate Crime Action Plan in 2016, I have been encouraged by the progress that has been made, including an increase in reported incidents and improvements to recording and prosecuting this genre of crime. However, high rates of attrition within the criminal justice system remain concerning.

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"Further to this, targeted online abuse continues to present a significant problem and underreporting of abusive activity weighs against the scale of the problem from being accurately reflected in official statistics. Work must be done to ensure complaints of assault are taken seriously and women are properly heard. 

"I welcome the Government’s a call for evidence to collect views from those with lived experience of engendered violence, threats, or intimidation. The consultation previously ran for 10 weeks from December but will now remain open until 26 March 2021.

"The Domestic Abuse Bill is also a welcome step in the fight against perpetrators of gender violence. This will significantly strengthen our laws and introduce new tools to protect victims of these abhorrent crimes. 

"This country is built on the historic values of unity, inclusivity, tolerance, and mutual respect. Hate crime, in all its forms, goes directly against these values, and no one should live in fear of intimidation or violence. We must stand up for diversity and face down discrimination wherever we see it. 

"My thoughts are with the family and friends of Sarah Everard."