Newcastle Reclaim These Streets organiser speaks of “frustration” after Sarah Everard vigil cancelled
FOLLOWING advice from Northumbria police and Newcastle City Council, supporters were encouraged to instead light a candle on their doorstep to remember the 33-year-old.
THE vigil, in response to the disappearance and murder of Sarah Everard, was meant to take place on 13 March in Newcastle City Centre. But was cancelled following concerns that the event would breach Covid-19 restrictions.
The death of the Durham University graduate sparked a social media movement with other women sharing their experiences of harassment. A number of events were organised across the country to remember Sarah Everard, who disappeared while she was walking home from a friend’s house in London earlier this month.
Natasha Ryder, one of the organisers of the Reclaim These Streets event in Newcastle spoke of her reaction when she heard the news the vigil wouldn’t be going ahead as planned, and why it was important to her to be involved: “First I was frustrated, angry. I think we all wanted to get out there, we all wanted to pay our respects to Sarah and as women we wanted to make it seem like we all support ending harassment and ending violence towards women.”
“I’m a woman, I’ve experienced harassment myself and I just wanted to raise awareness. I feel like I’ve sat back for too long. I’ll stand up for myself when I am groped in a night club, but every person in the world needs to hear this and now is the time for change.”
Through the event being cancelled, many opted to light a candle on their doorsteps to show their support. Natasha said: “It was sad, and it was a moment to reflect for Sarah and all of the other women around the world, including myself, for what we’ve experienced in life. It just sparked more anger in me to take this further and just continue with the Reclaim These Streets movement.”
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An investigation by UN Women UK released earlier this month found that 97% of women had experienced sexual harassment between the ages of 18-24, and a further 96% not reporting the incident.
Becky Rogerson, the director of Wearside Women in Need, shared her thoughts on why women often don’t report incidents: “If we look at the low conviction rate for rape cases for example, just over 1% of all reported rapes end up with a conviction. That does not fill women with confidence that the criminal justice system will address their concerns and give them justice.”
“I think if you speak to any women there will be a time when they felt harassed, targeted, nervous where they probably feel as though an offence has been committed against them, but did they do anything about that? did they feel able to? and would that of progressed?”
Becky went on to stress the importance of the inclusion and education of men on the topic: “I think we have to be careful about how we do that, because sometimes we can alienate men, when what we want is to get them on board.
“Most men don’t abuse, most men don’t grow up to be violent and commit sexual offences against women, so where are those men’s voices in this? I suppose that’s the good thing that would come of education. How do we encourage men to challenge that, to challenge other men, and have that voice and join us in tackling this endemic issue?
“By being a bystander you’re part of the problem, so do something. You might still be a bystander but you can be an active bystander not a passive one. You can have a voice, you can challenge that, you can put it on the table as not okay.”