An awareness campaign has been launched to rally communities across the city to tackle, challenge and prevent violence against women and girls in public places.
The ‘Safe Derby’ Campaign is backed by the Home Office’s Safer Streets funding stream – secured by the Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner.
It is jointly led by Derby City Council and other voluntary and community sector partners including local specialist child exploitation charity Safe and Sound, Derby County Community Trust and Derby Community Action.
The overarching objective of the campaign is to signal Derby’s zero tolerance towards, and promotion of a city free from, gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation.
A series of workshops, training, events and new initiatives will be organised in the coming weeks with further activity then planned on key dates later in the year.
These activities are in addition to an extensive capital programme planned by Derby City Council, again with Home Office funding, and in consultation with local residents and community groups to upgrade CCTV in the City Centre and improve lighting in streets, footpaths, cycle paths, parks and subways in areas identified as potential crime hotspots.
Activities planned include:
- The launch of Safer Places, which will create a network of easily identifiable premises and locations, initially in the city centre where women and girls can safely retreat if they are feeling threatened or uncomfortable either during the day or at night.
- Get Home Safely workshops for groups of women and girls across the city. The practical workshops will focus on the elements of awareness – self, situational and behavioural; how to be assertive rather than passive or aggressive and use of reasonable force.
- Active Bystander training for school pupils, community groups and key service providers such as taxi drivers, taxi marshals and community leaders. This is in light of research which shows that bystander intervention can be an effective way of stopping sexual assault before it happens, as bystanders play a key role in preventing, discouraging, and/or intervening when an act of violence has the potential to occur.
- Awareness workshops for years six and seven school pupils to raise awareness of violence against women and girls and the consequences of peer-on-peer abuse.
- The launch of the city’s ‘Allies of Women’ campaign which includes a hard-hitting video is being produced featuring male role models from the city who pledge their support for tackling violence against women and girls and a call out to local businesses and organisations to sign up to the national White Ribbon programme.
Councillor Matthew Eyre, Cabinet Member for Place and Community Development said: “The rights and needs of women and girls are at the heart of the ‘Safe Derby’ Campaign and the capital works to improve CCTV coverage and lighting in key public spaces.
“Women and girls fear and experience various types of violence in public spaces, from unwanted sexual remarks, to touching, to rape and serious violence. It happens on streets, in and around public transportation, in schools and workplaces, in public toilets and parks.
“This reality reduces women’s and girls’ freedom of movement and their ability to study and work, access essential services, participate in public life, and enjoy recreation opportunities. This is simply not acceptable.
“Girls and women have told us of the barriers they face using public spaces. Many girls and women avoid certain places in the city on their own, especially during hours of darkness.”
Tracy Harrison is CEO of Safe and Sound, the Derby-base charity which supports children, young people and families across Derbyshire who are affected by child exploitation.
She continued: “From our experience as a specialist child exploitation charity, young girls are particularly vulnerable to online grooming, sexual exploitation, trafficking, modern slavery, radicalisation and increasingly grooming by drugs gangs running County Lines.
“We were therefore keen to be part of Safe Derby which has three key strands of prevention, awareness and action and be involved in the wider campaign to bring violence against women and girls to the top of the agenda.
“Our goal is to make Safe Derby an important starting point to raising wider awareness of the issue and to empower everyone in our local communities to play their part in tackling gender-based violence.”
Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Angelique Foster, said: “I want everyone in Derbyshire to feel safe and be safe. However, it is a fact that some crimes disproportionately affect women and girls and we need to focus efforts and resources to fight these specific crimes.”
“In securing this funding for Derby City, I made it clear that I wanted to see all partners working together to reduce violence against women and girls and increase their feelings of safety in public spaces.
“I know this is important to the residents of Derby and Derbyshire and it is very important to me too. That’s why tackling violence against women and girls is a key element of my Police and Crime Plan.
“In welcoming these initiatives, which are designed to drive down crime and enhance public safety, I also want to assure residents that I will closely scrutinise the success of this work so that together we can build on best practice and improve public safety.”
Safe Derby was today welcomed by 38-year-old Emma (not her real name) whose awareness of the dangers facing women and young girls in public places and self defence training thwarted a would-be attacker.
Emma had previously been prompted to attend a course with MAX Conflict, who are running ‘Get Home Safely’ workshops as part of Safe Derby, after a friend was a victim of stalking.
This training was foremost in her mind when she was walking to her local shop near her home in Derby in broad daylight and she was approached by a man driving a moped.
“I noticed him slowing down near me and immediately felt uncomfortable. He asked me the time and I knew from the workshop that this was a common ploy.
“As directed in the training, I turned in the opposite direction, started to walk away and told him dismissively that it was about 4pm.
“He turned around and drove past me again and then pulled up just as I was approaching a derelict house on the street. By the time he got off the moped and came towards me I was on high alert.
“He was calling out really lewd comments and when he reached towards me I shouted at him to back away and leave me alone – again which is what we had been taught in the workshop.
“The last thing he evidently wanted was attention from passers by and he sped off. I ran home in tears and was shaking like a leaf.
“I rang the police straight away as my main thought was whether he would do it again – or worse – to someone else.
“I saw him again on his moped and contacted the police with his registration number. He originally denied it and the police were reluctant to follow this through as it was my word against his.
“However, I was adamant that I wanted to press charges as I felt that this was not an opportunistic crime but that he was hell bent on intimidating me – or worse.
“Eventually he was given a Restorative Justice Order which included him writing me an apology. That would have stayed on his file and I hope that it was a deterrent to him not to intimidate another woman – or worse.
Emma continued that she believed the incidence of violence against women and girls was under- reported.
“Any woman who has any experience like this – or indeed any experience that makes them feel scared or uneasy – must report it. The police are much more receptive now and it’s important that incidents are recorded.
“I had a mixture of emotions after this incident including a feeling of shame that I had been the target of this man. I am sure other women feel reluctant to speak up in case they are judged or, worse, victim-blamed for what happened to them.
“As women, we should be able to dress how we want and go where we want without fear of being intimidated or attacked and I strongly believe that a lot of men do not appreciate how uncomfortable and vulnerable many women and girls feel.
“It is therefore important that we speak out to raise awareness and encourage everyone to talk about this issue and very much welcome the Safe Derby campaign which will not only do that but also empower women and girls to both speak out and protect themselves and others.”
Events open to the public as part of Safe Derby will be confirmed over the coming weeks but the ‘Get Home Safely’ free workshops are available to book now online https://www.eventbrite.ie/o/max-training-amp-development-8313931973