Let’s Talk About a Safer Salisbury

 

Why don’t girls and women feel safe in Salisbury? This was the question asked at The Chapel nightclub, the venue for a conference on how we can all make Salisbury safer for women and girls. Initiated by Salisbury Soroptimist International and ‘Safe and Supportive Salisbury’, it was sponsored by Salisbury Council, Wiltshire Council and Wiltshire Community Foundation. It brought together advocate groups, students, police, councillors and community representatives to discuss practical steps to improve safety in the city. Wiltshire Radio interviewed many of the ninety participants.

Why the need for a conference?

There was plenty of press coverage of public outrage after the murder of Sarah Everard. Last year in Salisbury a mother and daughter were murdered in a domestic dispute. Every day girls walking home from school are the targets of comments and verbal abuse by passers by. Do these men ever think about how their comments make those girls feel? Women are hesitant to go our alone after dark. Patrons of nightclubs worry about drink spiking or getting home safely after a night out. Should they be? This conference aimed to address these issues and map out some practical steps for the future to improve our city.

Participants

The day began with a brief introduction by representatives of the many organisations present who made a two minute pitch and mostly kept to their allotted time! These were White Ribbon, CCTV, Splitz, The Alice Ruggles Trust, Salisbury Pubwatch, Street Pastors, Alabare Riverside Sanctuary, Stars and SP2 Cafe and Hope Centre. The session then broke up into three themed workshops, which subsequently  sub-divided further by topic. Everyone had a chance to voice their opinion, share experiences and contribute to solutions.

Workshops

The workshops focussed on Changing Attitudes, The Night-time Economy and Providing Better Support. The aim of each workshop was to bring forward three strategies which could be implemented in the coming year. Some of the suggestions included a School’s Forum to support and educate students about appropriate behaviour towards women, a certified taxi scheme and a community information hub. Sports clubs undertook to organise mixed tournaments to encourage more tolerance of women in sport, both as participants and officials. The ultimate aim would be to make Salisbury a ‘zero tolerance city’ meaning that no one should stand by, ignore or be allowed to behave in an offensive way towards women or other minorities.

Several speakers emphasised the need for positive change rather than ‘naming and shaming’. Men need to be re-educated that times have changed and what may have gone unremarked in the past is no longer acceptable. The ‘Me Too’ movement has begun to change the conversation  and way in which women will no longer tolerate casual sexism.

Keynote speaker

Dame Vera Baird QC, the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales joined the conference by Zoom and gave some interesting insights into the shocking lack of convictions for rape and sexual violence. She is passionate about improving the way in which women are treated by the justice system.

Conclusion

Participants spoke enthusiastically about the day saying how much they had enjoyed it.  Everyone has great hopes of positive, practical outcomes. The organisers are evaluating the feedback and will plan future meetings with those who can take the ideas forward. If you can contribute, please get in touch. 

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