Safer Streets 4 Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG)
What is Safer Streets 4 - VAWG?
Safer Streets want to work together across Bedfordshire to reduce Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) and raise awareness about unacceptable behaviour towards women and girls. Our aim is to start a conversation that challenges ideas around the acceptability of sexual harassment in public places. Sexual harassment has significant and widespread impacts, both on individuals as well as on society. Sexual harassment in public reduces women and girls’ freedom to enjoy public life, and can negatively affect feelings of safety, bodily autonomy and mental health. Being sexually harassed can be a degrading, humiliating, and harmful experience, but the effects are damaging more widely. It helps to keep women and girls unequal by perpetuating a culture in which they are sexualised; it is the backdrop to a society in which sexual violence can be normalised or excused.
In the UK, as elsewhere in the world, men and boys are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of sexual harassment in public places. Given that little research data is available on perpetrator of sexual harassment in the UK, it is understood that most perpetrators at times are unaware that their behaviour is unacceptable and has made a woman or girl uncomfortable or they are not ready to acknowledge that they are a perpetrator of sexual violence in society. Therefore, we encourage family, friends and peers to step up, speak up and challenge an unacceptable behaviour.
An April 2022 Bedfordshire Women and Girls Safety survey reported that 77% of respondents had directly experienced or witnessed VAWG related incidents and of these 85% did not report these to the police as many believed it would not change anything and it was generally accepted as something which happens. One quote received said “I don’t think it would be taken seriously and as much as the behaviour makes me feel uncomfortable and unsafe, I’m not sure any of it actually breaks the law”.
Any victim of violence and abuse deserves to access support and help. It is important that men and boys are included in all aspects of our work on all forms of violence against women and girls (particularly work on prevention and awareness raising). We are committed to ensuring that any victim will receive a sensitive and appropriate response, according to their needs. However, the VAWG strategy reflects that gender based violence is predominately a pattern of behaviour perpetrated by men against women. This does not mean that men are never victims of violence, or that women are not sometimes perpetrators. However, local and national prevalence data reveals a clear disproportionality along gender lines.
How can I report unwanted contact, sexual harassment, or violence?
This includes environmental issues, eg street lighting, abandoned buildings or vandalism and/or because of some behaviours, eg being followed or verbally abused.
Please note: ‘StreetSafe’ is not for reporting crime or incidents.
Where can I get help?
There is lots of support out there for women and girls in Bedfordshire.
If you have concerns about your partner, you can request information about them through the Clare’s Law scheme via the Bedfordshire Police website.
This scheme gives any member of the public the right to ask the police if their partner may pose a risk to them. This scheme also allows a member of the public to make an enquiry into the partner of a close friend or family member.
We are supporting the Hollie Guard app, a smartphone device that gives people a higher level of personal safety and security.
We are part of the Bedfordshire Domestic Abuse Partnership (BDAP), a collection of organisations working to help and support all victims of abuse.
You can find a full list of support services and how to contact them on the BDAP website.