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By Jamie Klingler
The reason that Sarah Everard’s disappearance hit so close to home is because she is me. She is you. She is a woman who followed the rules, wore bright clothing, told her boyfriend where she was and that she was coming home, she walked on a busy road and just like that, in a flash, she was gone. It’s the worst case scenario brought to life.
Part of what has been so traumatic over the last few days is the stories that so many women have been sharing of all the times they were harassed or grabbed or raped. Reading those accounts makes it really hard to live alone and to face the streets at night. It made me reflect on my own experiences, all of those times I was lucky to get away relatively unscathed. Yes, I may have cried myself to sleep. Yes, I may have changed my route home from work or even moved flats. But I am still standing.
When did that become enough?
‘We have been conditioned to think that it’s our job to keep ourselves safe. The unspoken half of that equation is who are we keeping ourselves safe from?’
We have been conditioned to think that this is just part of being a woman. It’s our job to keep ourselves safe. The unspoken half of that equation is who are we keeping ourselves safe from?
Yesterday on Times Radio I talked about having my keys poking through my knuckles whenever I walked down a dark street and the host was shocked, he had no idea that it’s just what we do. The two other women on the show agreed that it was a given, an unconscious behaviour that has been so drilled into our day to day that we don’t even think about it.
After that discussion, and as more news broke on the story, I didn’t feel like crying on Twitter was enough. I live alone and needed to see other women standing together. I needed collective strength, so I started organising a vigil only to find that some talented women had had the same idea and had already created #ReclaimTheseStreets.
‘I didn’t feel like crying on Twitter was enough. I live alone and needed to see other women standing together.’
They asked me to join forces, and now we are bringing thousands of women together to light a candle for Sarah Everard, to find strength in solidarity and to reclaim our streets.
We’re a mixed group of women with lots of different areas of expertise. We’ve got councillors, PR professionals, academics — and I’m an event planner. It’s super fulfilling to see amazing women donating their time to this, because it matters. Our safety matters.
When planning a public protest or vigil, you need to make sure the council and police are aware. We don’t need a permit because we aren’t marching or stopping traffic but we do need volunteers to act as stewards, to do clean up duty afterwards, to make sure that we are socially distanced. We will have first aiders and mental health experts on site and are currently trying to work out how best to get people to participate remotely—because Corona.
And then there are little details, like sourcing a thousand electric tea lights, to make sure that we can carry out this vigil safely without starting a fire.
There is also the need to get the word out. The best thing about organising a vigil is the hundreds of women and men that want to take part via local vigils.
Funnelling my anger, my rage and my abilities into Saturday’s vigil is a way to show respect but also to reclaim my voice and my street.
On Saturday, up and down the country there will be local vigils and a moment of silence at 6:15 pm.
We will all stand together, safely on our streets.
For up-to-date information on how you can take part visit the Reclaim These Streets Facebook event page.
By Jamie Klingler