Sarah Everard: Men seek advice on how to make women feel safer on the streets

·4-min read

Men have been seeking advice on how to change their behaviour to make women feel safer, as thousands of accounts of harassment and assault have been shared following the Sarah Everard case.

The 33-year-old's disappearance has become national news followed by millions and, though its full details are not yet known, it has highlighted the dangers women can face when out alone - and the measures they take to avoid it.

There has been frustration that the onus seems to be on women to keep themselves safe rather than a call for men to change.

Spectator assistant editor Isabel Hardman appeared to ridicule suggestions that women should avoid leaving their homes in order to protect themselves.

"Incredible how normal it is for women to be told not to go out alone after dark," she tweeted.

"Yet how strange and inexplicable this would seem if the same instruction - or even a curfew - were issued to men," she added.

But now discussions have been started by men on social media, asking what they can do to help women feel less vulnerable when walking alone at night.

Stuart Edwards, who lives close to where Ms Everard went missing in the Clapham and Brixton area of south London, tweeted: "I live less than five minutes from where Sarah Everard went missing. Everyone is on high alert. Aside from giving as much space as possible on quieter streets and keeping face visible, is there anything else men can reasonably do to reduce the anxiety/spook factor?"

Food critic Jay Rayner, who lives in Brixton, said he is already aware that his height could feel intimidating to women in the dark.

He tweeted: "I've said it before but will again: if I find myself walking behind a single woman on a quiet street I always cross the road to the other side and ideally accelerate away as quickly as possible. I am a big man and absolutely aware what my silhouette looks like in the darkness."

And it seems Mr Edwards was not alone in being grateful for advice.

@strolltoitaly tweeted: "I have always wondered about this too. I always make sure that I don't inadvertently follow a woman on the same side of a street when there's nobody about. Apart from that, I haven't a clue."

@Darrenbjohn tweeted: "This is a great shout. I always feel really self-conscious if I find myself walking behind a woman in a dark/quiet place such as my road. If I feel self-conscious then I dread to think how she must feel. Drop back, cross over, give space. Its such a simple thing for a man to do."

@misslauramarcus responded to Mr Edwards: "What a lovely kind tweet. Thanks. Basically never ever walk closely behind a woman. Cross the street to avoid this if necessary. I was attacked from behind once and even tho it was decades ago I still get freaked out if anyone walks too closely behind me. Thank you."

@saralee tweeted: "Walk your friends home no matter how safe you may perceive the route, cross road if you're walking behind a lone female and discuss with your male friends, I still don't think men have any comprehension of how scary it can be walking alone at night as a female."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told Sky's Beth Rigby at a news conference that the inequality needs to be "tackled at the root".

He said: "We all need to recognise how we need to understand the issue, challenge behaviours.

"I think this is particularly an issue for men. It's very important for men to speak out on this issue. Of course we need more police officers on the beat. We need a criminal justice system that works well.

"But as I say, the most important thing I think to take away from today is: One, to have our thoughts with the family and friends.

"Two, to recognise the scale of that violence against women and girls and renew our determination to do something about it."

Fiona Dwyer, chief executive of the charity Solace Women's Aid, told Sky News: "Over the past week, before we heard about the tragic outcomes, we heard messages about women not walking by themselves late at night or doing other things that 'put themselves at risk'.

"This is patronising towards women and does not highlight the key message that women should not have to change their own behaviours, but men should stop killing women."

Ways to make women feel safer include:

• Cross to the other side of the road instead of walking behind
• Keep your distance and give space if overtaking
• Don't stare
• Remove your face mask
• Walk your female friends home
• Don't make comments
• Don't be a passive bystander if you see inappropriate behaviour or a woman looking uncomfortable