Reclaim the Night: The Exeter walk demanding safer streets for women

‘We should all feel safe. It’s not a privilege.’

On Thursday 30th November, the annual Reclaim the Night event took place in Exeter. The event enables people to take to the streets across the country, demanding better safety measures for women and a higher awareness of issues of sexual abuse and domestic violence.

The march took place during the 16 days of action, which are between the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women and girls, 25th November and Human Rights Day, 10th December.

Reclaim the Night began in the UK on November 12 1977, where torchlit marches occurred across the country in response to the acts of serial killer Peter Sutcliffe. Since then, the movement has only continued to grow: and there is no doubt that the people of Exeter felt impassioned to share their feelings about women’s safety and protection from male violence.

Exeter University based group Angel Society hosted a placard-making event on campus before the walk, where attendees could create signs to hold on the route.

Hattie, a third year theology and religion student, as well as Society Rep for Angel Society, discussed the importance of speaking out against male violence: “Never assume that a survivor isn’t present and listening and never assume that a rapist isn’t present and feeling validated by rape jokes […] Don’t be a bystander to these conversations and call out your mates.”

Anabelle, a third year history student and Media and Communications Officer for Angel Society, spoke of the event and praised the organisation: “I’ve worked for Urban Angels for two years and it has been a rollercoaster. The highlight is always Reclaim the Night. Last year I went and a week later I was raped. This year was a lot harder to get the courage for but I’m so glad I went.”

She continued: “I’m not sure what else to say other than we should all feel safe. It’s not a privilege. People need to step up in governments and local establishments, especially schools and universities so that violence against women stops.”

Angel Society, a branch of Urban Angels, advocates for female and non-binary safety within Exeter, and hosts an array of events to increase awareness and create safe spaces on and around campus.

After the placard making, Angel Society ran a walking bus from campus to Sidwell Street, Reclaim the Night journeyed across the city centre punctuated by a series of chants and cheers.

The event finished in Bedford Square with a selection of talks from representatives of The Fawcett Society, the UK’s leading charity campaigning for gender equality and and women’s rights and Trevi, a Plymouth-based women’s charity.

Davina Cull, Chief Executive of Devon Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Service, said: “We are marching for a better world; walking together towards an end to sexual violence and all forms of abuse together.”

Reclaim the Night continues to be a hugely relevant and important event to advocate for women’s safety both locally and across the globe, and consider the many women whose lives have been impacted by sexual violence.

You can read Hattie’s story here and Annabelle’s story here.

Related articles recommended by this writer: