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'Cultural change' needed to stop violence against women, says Northumbria Crime Commissioner

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness spoke to ChronicleLive about the 'honest, raw' outpouring of fear and grief that has followed the death of Sarah Everard

(Image: Northumbria Police)

The national outpouring of grief and anger over the death of Sarah Everard must lead to real change.

That's the view of Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness, who admitted she "can't stop thinking about" the "devastating" case that has kick-started a long-overdue conversation.

The death of Durham University graduate Sarah Everard, who disappeared in London whilst walking home, has sparked a broader discussion of women's safety and gender-based violence.

Scotland Yard has now confirmed a body found in Kent woodland is that of the 33-year-old, while a Metropolitan Police officer accused of her murder remains in custody.

As the country mourns the shocking death, thousands of women have taken to social media to share their experiences of street harassment, violence, and the fear so many live with.

Many shared images of a message reading "text me when you get home" - a reminder of the anxiety felt for friends and loved ones completing the simple, everyday act of walking home.

The Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner said: "The whole case is absolutely devastating, what's happened to Sarah Everard is absolutely devastating, and to be honest I can't stop thinking about it, I can't stop thinking about her family and friends and how they must be feeling.

"But it has sparked a discussion about women's safety: not just whether women are safe but whether women feel safe, and think it's about time we had this discussion.

"The mood is obviously very sombre because of what's happened to Sarah, but people are sharing their stories in a way that they haven't before.

"Certainly every woman that I know, probably every woman you know, has made conscious judgements about their own behaviours to make themselves safe, and it shouldn't be that way."

Sarah Everard(Image: Evening Gazette)

"I think it's really got under our skin," she added.

"It's really hit home because she could be any of us, and that brings something out in you, that real concern.

"Those decisions that we make about what we're wearing on our feet; can we access our phone; are we taking the lightest route home; is it safer to take a bus or a taxi or a train or to walk, all of those decisions are subconscious, we make them every day without thinking about it.

"But the fact is that fear, that underlying concern about our own safety bubbles away, when actually it shouldn't be incumbent on women to think like that."

Police action can help, she said, highlighting Northumbria initiatives like the Darker Nights Campaign, part of which involved encouraging people to look out for the vulnerability of others and support those at risk.

The likes of better street lighting and increased CCTV could also boost feelings of safety.

But the only ultimate solution, Ms McGuinness argued, would be "cultural change".

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