Meet Women’s Street Watch – the female-led team keeping women safe on Newcastle’s streets
We caught up with one of the founders, Beth Dunn, to look back on how their first month has been...
After the recent harrowing murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, it’s safe to say many of us women now don’t feel safe on the streets at night.
But why should we be afraid to walk alone on the streets of our home? We have the right to get A to B without feeling the need to look over our shoulders.
‘Why did she wear that skirt?’, ‘why was she alone?’ or ‘why was she out that late?’, people ask these questions all the time about sexual assault victims’ choices, but why should we, as women, be blamed for sexual predators’ crimes?
‘We strongly feel that women are in no way to blame for the violence committed against them. We don’t offer safety tips on our page for this reason. Women have every right to live their lives and not be scared walking from A to B. We as a group do not judge – women should be able to wear what they want, drink as much as they want and just be able to go out and have fun without the fear of violence being in their minds’ founder of Women’s Street Watch Beth Dunn says.
‘Sarah Everard did everything “right”. She followed all the “safety tips” that we, as women, grow up hearing and she still wasn’t safe. The government could do so much more. The new government 888 initiative, we feel, isn’t really worth anything and looking at all of the women that have been murdered so far this year – the 888 initiative wouldn’t have saved any of them,’ Beth adds.
But as we all sit back in anger, motivated by all the women that have been raped and murdered whilst just trying to live their lives, Beth and her girlfriend Charlie selflessly decided to take the matter into their own hands and do something about it – and we can’t thank them enough!
The duo set up a community volunteer group with three main goals; to make the streets safer in the city at night, reduce sexual violence against women, and reduce the strain on emergency services.
All of this alongside working a 9-5 office job, a typical shift for Beth will see her and her team assisting to around 15 incidents, including helping women who may have had too much to drink to get a taxi, assisting females who suspect their drinks have been spiked and looking after students who have lost their friends.
Every weekend you’ll catch Women’s Street Watch patrolling in their pink hi-viz jackets around Newcastle’s biggest nightspots between 10pm – 4am, where they offer water, snacks, flip flops, phone chargers and calls to taxi companies to vulnerable women.
Since launching last month, the group has received nearly 200 requests from women wanting to volunteer and hosted their first training session for 45 women this month. ‘Our first month has been really hectic – we haven’t stopped. The reaction’s been so unexpected and humbling. We never expected the group to resonate with people like it seems to be and didn’t expect this level of support.’
Following their success, now Women’s Street Watch’s goal is to have several groups out at once and as the group grows, they hope to have their team out weeknights too to protect Newcastle’s students.
Whilst out on patrol, the ladies have found that many taxis won’t take passengers home if it looks like they may be sick or damage their car – meaning many vulnerable women are left in town unable to get home. So, the ladies are now fundraising for their own taxi with female-only drivers making sure women get home safe.
If you would like to donate to Women’s Street Watch’s taxi fundraiser, visit their Crowdfunder