'Violence against women and girls must stop. Full stop.' How Stevenage and North Herts Fawcett Group is tackling hate crime

Siobhán Crawford, Sgt Holly Cooper, Chief Insp Frankie Westoby, Cllr Teresa Callaghan and Cllr Jackie Hollywell

Siobhán Crawford, Sgt Holly Cooper, Chief Insp Frankie Westoby, Cllr Teresa Callaghan and Cllr Jackie Hollywell formed the Stevenage and North Herts Fawcett Group panel, addressing a diverse range of issues affecting women - Credit: Teresa Callaghan

A seminar held by the Stevenage and North Herts Fawcett Group has brought people from across Hertfordshire together to talk about violence against women and girls. 

Over the weekend, a panel of experts spoke about a diverse range of issues affecting women, including the increase in violence against women over the last few years, making misogyny a hate crime, and the problem of bullying and abuse on social media towards women in public life.

Solicitor Siobhán Crawford, Chief Inspector Frankie Westoby and Sgt Holly Cooper from Herts police joined Cllr Jackie Hollywell, Stevenage Borough Council’s executive member for communities, community safety and equalities, and Stevenage and North Herts Fawcett chair Cllr Teresa Callaghan on the panel.

Women’s safety, and confidence in the police following the murder of Sara Everard by a serving police officer, was discussed. Confidence in the police has been impacted, there is evidence of misogyny within the police force and it needs to be rooted out - while acknowledging that it is not the whole workforce.

Men who attended the seminar recognised that men themselves need to call out toxic masculinity and misogynistic behaviour, and hold other men to account.

Attendees also talked about the impact that street lighting has on safety and the feeling of safety. Hertfordshire County Council’s policy of turning off streetlights at night was felt to be impacting people’s safety and making women more feel more vulnerable to assault.

Cllr Teresa Callaghan, who chaired the event, said: “This seminar was the start of an ongoing conversation with our community about ending violence against women and girls.

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"Around 140 women are killed each year by their partner or a man known to them. If that many people were killed any other way, there’d be a national outcry.

"Violence against women and girls must stop. Full stop.

“Women are hardwired be aware of their own safety. One of the key areas that Fawcett wants to campaign on is getting the streetlights back on at night, to help people - particularly women - feel safer when out late at night or early in the morning.

"We hope that local people and like-minded organisations will join us in lobbying the county council and Police and Crime Commissioner to change this damaging policy.”

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