Norfolk women share their experiences of feeling unsafe on our streets

sarah everard

Sarah Everard, who disappeared in Clapham on March 3. - Credit: Metropolitan Police

More than a week after the disappearance of Sarah Everard, heartbreak has turned to outrage as women everywhere recount experiences of feeling unsafe and threatened on the streets.

The 33-year-old was last seen on March 3 in Clapham on her way home from a friend's house. A police officer has been arrested on suspicion of her murder, with human remains found in a woodland near Ashford, Kent.

Dame Cressida Dick said while it was incredibly rare for a woman to be abducted in this manner, she understood women in London and beyond would be "worried and scared" by the case.

We asked EDP readers whether they felt safe here in Norfolk and Waveney.

In a survey which received over 500 responses, the results were stark and perhaps surprising to many.

Only one in ten of the respondents said they felt safe all the time, while two in ten said they more often felt unsafe. 56.6pc of women said they feel safe living here "most of the time".

The statistics were even more shocking when it comes to walking or travelling alone. In those circumstances, 32pc of Norfolk and Waveney women feel unsafe, while just 8.3pc feel safe all the time.

The number of women who feel safe walking or travelling alone "most of the time" dropped to just 36pc.

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Responders recounted experiences of cat-calling and being harassed for phone numbers to far more sinister behaviour such as stalking, assault and even rape. A selection of answers are shown below, with the contributors' permission.

Sarah Everard, 33, whose body was found in Kent Woodland on March 10.

Sarah Everard's disappearance has prompted a public outcry from women across the country - Credit: PA

Experiences as a woman in Norfolk and Waveney

"I have been touched inappropriately in Norfolk: in bars, in the street, on public transport and not always at night. I have been followed, cat called, made to walk into the road around a group of "lads" who taunted me. My first experience of this was at the age of six, from a group of boys at a local park who tried to undress and touch me and threatened me with a metal bar. I have had a stalker, who persistently rang me until I sought help from the police. This led to nothing as it was a pay-as-you-go number. I was drugged in a pub and found passed out in the toilet by the bar staff, who just packed me into a taxi and hushed it up. I was physically assaulted by a man as I stood in line for a taxi. Writing this down sounds horrific, but this is just a few occasions: mostly the worst ones. As a woman I have had hundreds of "uncomfortable" experiences in Norfolk and elsewhere in this country. I learnt from a young age that this was the way it was and I had to protect myself. It sickens me." - Cromer

"My first memory of this was when my mum was sexually harassed whilst pushing me and my brother on a walk. I was then catcalled as a 12 year old walking home in my school uniform. Aged 16, an older man sat next to me on the bus and said he “loved my tights” and how they would look “better on the floor”. Aged 16-21 I was working in a city centre cafe, and all of my female colleagues and I were hounded by older men who mistook friendly customer service for flirting. Other things which come to mind are: being followed on my way to work in Norwich early in the morning, being followed on my way home in the early evenings, avoiding Chapelfield Gardens at all costs, going on nights out in gay nightclubs to feel safer than being in a heterosexual club. Too many times my friends and I have been sexually harassed and assaulted when we just wanted to have a nice night.  I have never reported any to the police because whenever my friends or I have tried to speak up we are told “boys will be boys." - Norwich

"I've had my drink spiked. I've been randomly grabbed at and groped on multiple occasions. I've been sexually assaulted by a group. I've been raped. I've been stalked for months. I've had someone tell others in detail that they were going to kill me and how they were going to do it. I've been threatened with a knife... It isn't just feeling unsafe that's the problem, it's actually being unsafe." - Lowestoft

"When I was younger and walking home in my high school uniform I’d experience men peeping at me in cars/shouting inappropriate things. On nights out both myself and friends have been touched inappropriately by men, either strangers or men we know, and sometimes even spiked. I’ve experienced men in every environment/situation making inappropriate jokes/comments about my appearance/sexuality. In my workplace (I work in a bar in Norwich), I’ve been physically assaulted by members of the public. One man once grabbed me and shouted in my face, another touched my bottom to get my attention. On a daily basis men I serve make inappropriate comments towards me." - Norwich

"I was grabbed and a man attempted to pull me into some allotments by an underpass. This was a long time ago (2003/4). Thankfully I was able to fight off and as I ran down towards the main road someone noticed my distress and took me to the police station." - Thetford

"Being sworn at, told to "go back to where you came from", dealing with aggressive drivers because I drive a foreign car, cat-calls, stuff thrown at me when exercising, driving where I can encounter the least traffic/people, harassment in shops or high streets and by tradesmen in the home for being a foreign female: these are all things I experience regularly." - South west Norfolk

"In Great Yarmouth at a bus stop on my own in the early 1970s a  man started talking to me, then began poking me in the chest getting agitated. He wouldn't leave me alone. His unwelcomed behaviour increased. I told him I was going to walk to the police station which was near and he started to follow. Other people were near to us then and nobody helped me. As I got nearer to the police station he went away and I returned to the bus stop, disappointed that no-one intervened. Now I always feel unsafe, even if I'm with my husband walking home or when very few people are about on rural walks and if somebody is close behind us. I carry a walking pole or a stick to defend us if an issue arises." - Great Yarmouth

"I have been followed a number of times on King Street and made to feel uncomfortable by strange men asking personal questions. I try to avoid going out at night alone as I feel the town centre has a different vibe when the shops shut and the lights go out." - Great Yarmouth

"I'm a 50 year old woman and over the years there have been numerous times I have felt uncomfortable or even threatened. My daughter and friends, in their 20s, have reported being followed and even raped. I have never reported as I don't believe they would be believed. Even my 17-year-old has had comments and at least one boy in her college has actually been physical with one of her friends whilst walking down a corridor. I think a lot of the behaviour is fuelled by men and boys becoming desensitised by the horrendous availability of pornography online. Consequently, there is a general lack of respect for women as human beings." - Broadland

"A taxi driver was asking me very personal questions when I was leaving a night out on my own. I took the taxi in the first place because I thought it would be safer. The driver asked very inappropriate questions and locked the doors when we got to my destination. I called my mum from the taxi and he unlocked the doors and drove off." - Fakenham

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