We’re furious after the shutdown of the women’s hotline set up after the murder of Sarah Everard – people are at risk
CAMPAIGNS have criticized the removal of an emergency number to protect women following the murder of Sarah Everard and called on ministers to work to make our streets safer.
BT’s government-backed 888 “Walk Me Home Service” is designed to track journeys and trigger alerts if users don’t get home within a certain time.
Women should also be able to call the police via an app on their cell phone if they feel threatened.
But 18 months after Sarah’s killer, Wayne Couzens, who abused his position as a police officer to kidnap, rape and murder her in 2021, was ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison, the plan was scrapped.
Charities and public figures have called the empty promise “pointless” and a “waste of time” and called for more to be done to keep women and girls safe.
Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, said: “Following the horrific murder of Sarah Everard by a police officer on duty and the ensuing outburst of grief and anger, the government was quick to make prominent promises of change and reform.
“As it turned out, they were all meaningless.
“I would have welcomed this news if the government had announced plans to replace the 888 phone line with investments focused on actually preventing male violence rather than managing it.
“But the fact that they simply abandoned the program shows how little interest our political leaders have in ending violence against women and girls.
“We don’t need empty promises and senseless sensational schemes.
“We need action and investment, and we need it now.”
Jane Jutsum, director of Solace, which is dedicated to ending violence against women and girls, added: “The 888 phone line initiative has always been a quick response to a large-scale epidemic of male violence and it is a shame that time is wasted insisted if it could have served to make our streets and homes safe.
“Women and girls live in fear – they have lost faith in the authorities who are supposed to be looking after them.
“We need better legislation, better education and for domestic violence and sexual assault to be prioritized by both government and police.”
The phone line, backed by then Home Secretary Priti Patel and estimated at £50million, should be up and running by Christmas 2021.
But last night it was confirmed that it was sorted.
A spokesman for BT, which also does 999 calls, told the Huffington Post: “We’ve developed a solid body of new technology, but as we’ve worked it’s become clear that there’s no point in launching a new BT service. but to share our insights for the broader benefit of others who are already working on it.
“Anyone who is concerned about their personal safety should continue to dial 999.
“Our staff are highly trained, know how to alert for problems, even if it’s a ‘silent’ call, and can put through to the police if necessary.”
Critics had previously dismissed the “pointless” proposal as a “band-aid” over a broader problem.
Women and girls live in fear.
Jamie Klingler, co-founder of Reclaim These Streets said: “As I said at the time, this was a red herring and just a way to pretend the government was doing something substantial to actually make women safer.
“It was never really a possibility and made no sense from a tax point of view.
“Since the so-called tipping point of Sarah’s murder, the government and police have done nothing to make our lives safer.
“We are being stalked, raped and killed, and our attackers are never brought to justice while pretending to build new phone lines.”
Now more than ever, activists want change.
Ms Reid said: “What we need to see is firm action to combat misogyny baked into every police force in the country, a national education program to combat misogyny attitudes and educate young people about consent.
“The women’s sector is in dire need of funding to support women who have been victims of abuse.
“And crucially, political leaders must adopt a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct in Parliament, because violence against women and girls in society will not end until government sets standards within its own ranks and makes them a priority.”
Ms Jutsum added: “Charities like Solace need more funding to teach in schools, support women and girls who have been assaulted and help perpetrators change their behaviour.”
She stressed that more than 300 women in the UK have been murdered by a man since Sarah was killed.
And by September 2022, over 70,000 rapes had been reported to police in the UK – the highest ever in a 12-month period.
“Male violence against women and girls is a crisis that urgently needs to be addressed,” she added.
The Home Office earlier said it welcomes “joint collaboration between the private sector and the government”.
But a spokesman said last night: “The women’s 888 phone line was a BT project, not a government programme.
“We have so far committed £125m to communities across England and Wales to invest in measures such as improved street lighting and CCTV and roadside posts.
“We also support the Public Sexual Harassment Protection Act, which will ensure that criminals who intimidate and harass women face the consequences.”
HOW TO GET HELP:
Women’s Aid has this advice for victims and their families
- Keep your phone close at all times.
- Contact charities for help, including the Women’s Aid live chat hotline and services like SupportLine.
- If you are in danger, call 999.
- Familiarize yourself with the silent solution and report abuse without speaking on the phone, instead dialing ’55’.
- Always carry some money with you, including change for a payphone or bus ticket.
- If you suspect your partner will attack you, try moving to a less vulnerable area of the house – for example, where there is an exit and access to a phone.
- Avoid the kitchen and garage where there are likely to be knives or other weapons. Avoid spaces where you could become trapped, such as B. the bathroom, or where you could be locked in a closet or other small space.
If you have been a victim of domestic violence, the SupportLine is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6pm to 8pm on 01708 765200. The charity’s email support service is open weekdays and weekends during the crisis – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Women’s Aid offers a live chat service available weekdays from 8am to 6pm and weekends from 10am to 6pm.
You can also call the 24-hour toll-free domestic abuse hotline on 0808 2000 247.