#ReclaimTheseStreets Soton: Why the vigil was important, and what it meant for women

The vigil was held in memory of Sarah Everard and all other victims of male violence

On Saturday 13th March, an online #ReclaimTheseStreets vigil was held in memory of Sarah Everard, and for all of the women of Southampton and beyond who feel threatened on our streets. Although we all wished to be there in person to create an atmosphere of support, passion and anger, taking the vigil online highlighted the fact that we will not go unheard any longer.

The vigil began with a minute silence, which was followed by speakers highlighting important topics such as police brutality, the male gaze, sexual violence, #notallmen and femicide. The overall goal of the event was to empower women by creating a platform in which we could come together and speak our truths.

An important message that was highlighted throughout the event, and throughout the past week in general, is how the world is such a different place for women than it is for men. Since the devastating news about Sarah Everard, thousands of women took to social media to share their stories, and the lengths we all go to when walking alone to ensure our safety. Although it was under such horrible circumstances, it created a sense of unity among women and reminded us that we are not alone. Whilst the focus has been on women, it is important to recognise trans and non-binary people who are twice as likely to be victims of crime on the streets compared to cis people.

This has been such a significant week for women in raising awareness about the precautionary measures taken every time a woman walks alone. Women follow a list of unsaid rules. We follow these rules as we believe they will help us to feel safe, but Sarah’s story shows us that this is not enough. This week we also saw the release of disturbing statistic that showed 97 per cent of young women have been a victim of sexual harassment. This is not shocking for women, as it is our personal experiences that make up this scary statistic. And out of that 97 per cent of women, 96 per cent did not report it as they did not feel that anything would be done. Sexual harassment is so engrained into our existence as women that we are sadly used to it, and are even more used to nothing changing when we bring it up. This is why we are so angry.

It is also important for us to recognise the women whose stories are not told: Wenjing Lin, Imogen Bohajczuk, Christina Rowe, Mary Wells, Geetika Goyal, Nicole Smallman, Bibaa Henry, Marta Vento, Katie Simpson, Blessing Olusegun, and many, many more who have all been killed at the hands of men.

According to a Femicide Census report, on average, a woman is killed by a man every three days. No matter what we do or say, this will not change until the men who victimise and murder women do. This can only be done through education. Men must be educated on what sexual harassment really is. They must call out their friends for making sexist comments and jokes. They must learn what consent really means and that no is not the start of a negotiation. They must learn how to make women feel safe in their presence.

This week has allowed for the frustration that has been bubbling inside women for generations to finally be heard. It can only get better for us, our future is bright and we will not be silenced.

Featured image credit: Elena Vardon

Related articles recommended by this writer:

• As women we should be able to walk home safely, but these stories prove we can’t

• Women are sharing how men can make them feel more safe at night

• Stop warning women against walking alone at night. We’re not the problem