Today’s guest blog is from Chief Constable Sarah Crew reflecting on last Friday’s summit on Violence Against Women and Girls, which was attended by members of the Bristol Women’s Commission, Deputy Mayor Cllr Asher Craig, Cllr Ellie King, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Communities and Cllr Helen Holland, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Integrated Care System.
On Friday 6 May we were joined by organisations and individuals united in one aim – to eliminate violence against women and girls in Avon and Somerset.
The one day Summit, Enough: Be part of the Change, marked an historic milestone for our region, bringing together partners to agree an action plan to make the vision that women and girls living in our communities can go about their lives free from crime, abuse, harassment, intimidation and fear into a reality.
It is an ambitious vision, but it’s clear we cannot delay action any longer.
It’s estimated that one in three women will experience violence in her lifetime. Crimes such as rape, female genital mutilation, stalking, harassment, and digital crimes such as cyber-flashing, ‘revenge porn’ and ‘up-skirting’ are taking place every day.
Of course we recognise policing has a significant role to play in any change that needs to be made. Recent events have severely dented the trust and confidence of those we most need to protect, and we must address this as a matter of urgency. We are already committed to tightening our grip on offenders, but we understand this must also be a time for both reflection and action within our own organisation to ensure we are upholding the standards vital to providing the service our communities, and our own people, deserve.
However the impact of this goes beyond just victims of crime; it seeps into every area of women’s lives, at home, in our communities, at school and in the workplace. Women and girls are living with the fear of, as well as the reality of abuse, intimidation and violence. And that has to change.
Which is why, in October 2021, we wrote to a number stakeholders in Avon and Somerset to propose a strategic summit to not only ask people to share their own actions and progress but to also establish joint commitments through a series of agreements, covering areas including Criminal Justice, media, culture and sport, places, transport, children and young people and the workplace.
At the Summit we came together to discuss these agreements and to set out the next steps on our journey to delivering the change we need to see.
There is no doubt that this is a complex problem with no quick fix but we firmly believe, as we have shown through our work over the years with Bristol Women’s Commission and many other stakeholders, that coming together to work in partnership is the only way we are going to achieve real and sustainable change.
We now, more than ever, need to demonstrate our collective commitment to creating the conditions where women and girls can go about their lives free from crime, abuse, harassment, intimidation and fear.