'It's a continuous worry': Views from women in Leamington, Warwick and Kenilworth on why they do not feel safe on our streets
We asked for your experiences - and here are just a few of your responses
Following the tragic death of Sarah Everard, women across the country have been speaking out on the dangers they face on our streets. We asked people to share their experiences so we could highlight the issue locally - and give a voice to those who are often not heard. We can all play a part to help and having this discussion is a good start. Here are just some of the comments we received (we have not named the people).
THIS IS JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG
I was walking my girls to school one morning and I saw this man who I had previously witness walking down Smith Street behind a young girl and he was exposing himself and touching himself as he walked. She walked quicker, obviously aware of this disgusting man and I called him out and he ran off the other way.
I educated my very young girls to cross the road if they ever saw this person and told them the safe places to go into to get away from him.
Note, that is one of many different types of abuse that they have had told me about and have had to be educated about and what to do if they ever face cat calling, etc.
It is a continuous worry and just the tip of a very large iceberg.
IT SEEMS TO HAVE GOT WORSE DURING LOCKDOWN
In the past couple of years, I have had a car slow crawl next to me while I was on my own walking in the dark. He was commenting on my outfit and asking me to get into the car (Cape Road, Warwick). My daughter and I were followed by a man back to our flat. This turned out to be a well known issue and a social media campaign led to the police discovering who he was and stopping his behaviour. (Warwick Central/Cape). I have also had a waiter from a restaurant used my booking information to find me on Facebook and send messages (Warwick Central). Most recently a man tried to get me into his car in broad daylight (Racecourse). It happens a lot and its terrifying. I do not feel safe on my own anymore especially in low light. I think lockdown has made it worse, isolation aggravating existing mental health issues and allowing a disconnection from reality. Couple this with less people outside to look out for each other and it's sadly inevitable.
MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE TO PROTECT EVERYONE
Both men and women should be able to go out and feel safe, I have a friend with a hidden disability that was attacked walking home and as a vulnerable person this knocked his confidence to the point where three years on his still too afraid to go out alone at night. More needs to be done to protect everyone with more police presence.
LIFE ISN'T SAFE FOR WOMEN
I now live somewhere else as I could never feel safe in Leamington. When I was suffering domestic violence and went to the police, I was told there was nothing they could do until my husband put me in hospital. Refuges wouldn’t take me as my teenage male children could be perceived as threatening by others in refuge. I totally understood this and accepted this, but it left me with literally nowhere to turn and allowed my husband/abuser to continue. Life isn’t safe for women, we are constantly on our guard in public and too often at home too.
You don’t notice grooming at first, it’s subtle and to me, at the time, I wasn’t an abused wife, I was a strong woman in a relationship with a damaged and difficult man. I loved him, so I justified and excused the behaviours and called it coping. It can happen to anyone and everyone in their own homes as well as on the streets. We know not all men are abusive, but we can’t tell which ones are, so we have to be ready for ANY of them to be. I’ve breathed a thousand sighs of relief at a man passing me calmly in the dark, but I was ready with keys and rape alarms or the first of three nines dialled every time.
FOUR TIMES I HAVE FELT IN DANGER
I’ve lived in the area ever since I was a student, and in just those five years I’ve felt in danger from men four times.
My friend and I once had our drinks spiked at a bar by a man who told us he was the manager. We didn’t have any proof and we got home safe, but very unwell and shaken, so we didn’t think it would have been worthwhile going to the police.
For a few years I didn’t have a car, so I relied on buses to get to work. I had two scary incidents in a short space of time that knocked my confidence and forced me to move house so I wouldn’t need to take the bus.
The first was on the short, five minute walk home from the bus stop to my flat, along a quiet country lane, in broad daylight. A driver honked his horn, slowed down to follow me, wound down the window and asked if I wanted a lift. When I refused, he swore at me and did a U-turn, so the car was now on my side of the road coming towards me, fast enough to frighten me. As he passed me he continued to shout abuse.
On another occasion I was waiting at the bus stop opposite the town hall along with several other strangers. A man who was clearly drunk approached a woman, leaned in very close to her face and smiled in what I took to be a threatening way. When she moved away, he followed her. She appeared upset, so I asked him to leave her alone. He just laughed and started to do the same to me. No one else tried to intervene. I eventually felt so threatened that I walked away as fast as I could, almost running, missing my bus and having to wait at another bus stop as it got dark. For days afterwards I was anxious every time I was in the area and was always looking over my shoulder.
While on a busy train from Birmingham to Leamington, two men sat down opposite me. One of them made a comment about my appearance, which I ignored. He then asked me an unpleasant, explicit question, which I don’t want to share. I felt disgusted, embarrassed and trapped because there were no empty seats I could move to, and even if I did move I would have had to squeeze past them. Plenty of other passengers heard the comments but no one said or did anything to help me.