Content warning: This article features mentions of sexual assault and harassment
The past two weeks have seen women across London share their accounts of everyday violence, abuse and misogyny experienced in the capital.
Male violence and abuse plagues far too many women and girls in our society. No one should be made to feel uncomfortable, fearful or unsafe in their home or in our streets but sadly, many do.
The stories of Sarah Everard, Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman, Blessing Olesegun and others who are sadly too many in number to name, have deeply affected every woman and girl in Islington.
The Council has set up a memorial space outside the Town Hall for people to express their sorrow for victims of violence against women, as well as to stand in solidarity with all those affected. Last night, Wednesday 17th March, the Town Hall was lit up in orange (see above), the colour of the UN campaign for ending violence against women and girls.
Islington’s Labour-run Council is committed to ending violence against women and girls and is taking action to make our borough a safer place.
In January 2020, the Council pledged to invest more than £2million extra funding to help tackle violence against women and girls. This funding is being used to increase support for survivors at every step – raising awareness of the issue and services available among staff and residents; building on the learning from our highly innovative ‘Keel’ project in encouraging early identification of victims/survivors; improving access to specialist services (in particular for people with multiple disadvantages); supporting households to break the cycle of violence, as well as doing more to change the behaviour of perpetrators and hold them to account.
We know it is most important to focus on those perpetrating these crimes and that’s why our early intervention approach is targeted at families most at risk and attempts to stop any matters of domestic violence escalating.
This is on top of our network of 100 Safe Havens, including local shops, cafes, pubs and libraries, helping those who are in danger, feel threatened or harassed on the street, are unwell, or are in need of help. Those in need can look for Safe Haven signs in the windows of premises across the borough.
We have also been continuing to work hard during the pandemic to protect those experiencing domestic abuse, working with local community groups and charities to publicise services available and offer support to those affected.
In 2019, the Council launched the Women’s Night Safety Charter in the borough, signing up local night time venues so that they commit to a range of pledges, including training staff to spot signs of harassment and to act on reports quickly and effectively.
For both our Safe Havens and Night Safety Charter work, we are using the reopening of businesses in the coming months to re-engage with them, to work together on tackling violence against women and girls and raise awareness across the borough. As well as this, we are working with local women’s organisations to make our borough a safer place and will be announcing further developments in due course.
Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Deputy Leader of Islington Council, said:
“I care deeply about making Islington a safe place for women and girls to grow up in, live in, work in and enjoy. The past two weeks have further highlighted what women have always known, male violence is far too common in our society.
“Our work on tackling violence against women and girls is extensive but we can do more. I look forward to working with residents, local community groups and charities over the coming months to work towards ending violence against women and girls in Islington.”
Cllr Sue Lukes, Executive Member for Community Safety, said:
“We have all been appalled by so much in the past week and more. And as we watch and comment, thousands of women are telling their stories, our stories, of everyday violence, misogyny and fear. As women we need to say how we feel about this. As Islington we need to hear and see this.
“Enough is enough and we are committed to making our borough the safest place possible for women and girls. No one is safe unless all of us are safe.”