People often ask me why this issue is so close to my heart. When I was younger, my mum worked at Citizen’s Advice Bureau and my bed was often given up to provide a safe space and sanctuary for women escaping abusive relationships.
That was my very first insight into violence against women and the impact it has. However, throughout my life I have seen it play out in many more forms, from the casual language and misogynistic behaviours that play out in the workplace, to the harrowing murder of Sarah Everard which rocked our nation.
Just three weeks ago, we witnessed the normalisation of violence against women play out in the British press. Days after Meghan Markle spoke about abusive media making her feel suicidal and terrified for her safety, a deeply disturbing newspaper column by Jeremy Clarkson detailing how he falls asleep imagining her forced naked and pelted with human faeces was published.
The truth is that violence against women and girls happens right in front of us every day – and we simply must do more to counteract it.
Feeling safe should be a fundamental human right, but for many women this right is taken away from them, simply because they are women. 1 in 3 women are estimated to be affected in their lifetime, yet it’s estimated that only 18% will report incidents to the police.
On top of that, domestic abuse crimes have been continuously increasing since 2015. Nationally and in Liverpool, sexual offences have been continuously increasing since the end of the pandemic. Between October 2021 to September 2022, 1818 sexual crimes were recorded, which is 30% higher than the previous year.
I knew that in order for us to mobilise city-wide change, it was going to take a collective effort and a shared vision. My approach to working has always been to listen, learn and collaborate. I believe that statutory services should never get stuck in their ways, and that everything starts with a conversation.
Therefore, the strategy follows three stages of rigorous consultation to engage various sectors and social groups across Liverpool, including young girls and students who shared their experiences in and out of school, as well as specialist organisations involved in supporting those affected.
We also conducted sessions with minority groups, the health sector, criminal justice, housing and voluntary organisations. This strategy simply would not have been possible without their input and generous sharing of skills, experience, and passion.
In addition to the strategy, we have also secured £846,000 in Safer Streets funding. This followed a survey which showed 54% of women in Liverpool felt unsafe using public transport at night and almost 42% had concerns using it in the day.
There are a number of initiatives which will benefit from this funding including a text message service (specifically requested by young people) which can be used to report concerns, educational training for up to 70 schools on sexual harassment and misogyny and an increased police presence on the city’s transport network.
Over the next three years, beyond my term as Mayor, this strategy will shift the trajectory in how Liverpool City Council responds to violence against women and girls. It is vitally important for me to set in motion change for the women and girls of our city and I truly believe that a new normal of respect and safety for women is possible.