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Sarah Everard case pushes Brits to learn how to stop street abuse

by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 30 September 2021 17:15 GMT

Demonstrators hold placards during a rally for women's rights and safety, following the murder of Sarah Everard, in Parliament Square, London, Britain, April 3, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville

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Sarah Everard's abduction from a residential street in London earlier this year sparked outrage and demands for action to ensure the safety of women on the streets

By Sonia Elks

LONDON, Sept 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The murder of Sarah Everard has led to a spike in demand for training on how to help if you see someone being harassed on the street, course providers in Britain said, as her killer was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Everard's abduction from a residential street in London earlier this year sparked outrage and demands for action to ensure the safety of women on the streets of the British capital.

It also pushed people to seek advice on what to do if they suspected someone was being harassed in public, known as bystander intervention.

"One of the things people say so often is, 'I wish someone had said something or done something'," said Farah Benis, organiser of the @CatcallsofLdn social media campaign, which collects examples of street harassment in the British capital.

"And in the instances where someone did, that information is volunteered to me before I even ask, because it is so rare and people are so appreciative when it happens."

Of the more than 10,000 reports of street harassment she has received over the last three years, Benis said about two thirds of victims said there was someone else around at the time, but of those, only 7% said a bystander intervened to help them.

Scott Solder, director of The Active Bystander Training Company, said the initial news of Everard's murder led to a doubling of bookings.

Many people want to act when they see harassment or abuse, but have doubts about how to do it, he said.

"The Everard case created a public conversation about really where our thresholds are in terms of the ability to live our lives without being at risk," said Solder, who provides training to workplaces, universities and schools.

"It created a national conversation about how we can go about showing we don't tolerate that any more."

Carolyn Pearson, chief executive at business travel safety company Maiden Voyage, said there was a "direct correlation" to a rise in bookings for bystander and personal safety training, with many people directly referencing the case.

Pearson said she shows people examples of how to intervene without aggression, including by creating a distraction, asking the victim if they are OK, and inviting other nearby people to help document or defuse the situation.

Benis, the anti-harassment campaigner, said any rise in bystander training was "a step in the right direction" but more action was needed to change cultures and improve reporting and prosecution systems.

"It's really positive that more individuals are taking responsibility for equipping themselves with the tools to recognise and act when they see harassment, but we need to see more on an institutional level," she said.

Related stories:

Women share safety tips as London murder case stokes anxiety 

The young women protesting globally - for the first time - against sexual abuse 

One in three women endure physical or sexual violence - WHO 

(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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