University of Exeter: New Safety Charter for Exeter launched

The Safety of Women at Night Charter has been developed by a city-wide partnership to significantly enhance safety measures for women in the heart of Exeter, as well as ensure their safe passage home.

It was officially launched at a special event, attended by representatives from key partners including the University of Exeter, Devon and Cornwall Police, Exeter City council, the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner, CoLab Exeter, More Positive Me and SPACE Youth Services, at the University of Exeter, on Wednesday March 23rd.

The Charter has established seven key pledges for all organisations that operate in the night-time economy to sign up to and commit to endorsing, to tackle the key safety issues faced by women of all ages, and challenge unacceptable behaviours across society.

It is inspired by the pledges created for the Mayor of London’s Women’s Night Safety Charter, launched in 2018, which has also been adopted by Cardiff and Bristol.

The Charter, which is a voluntary pledge, will be implemented across Exeter and will lead the development of a strong network of businesses, organisations and stakeholders who can work together to make a positive, proactive change.

The new initiative is one of the direct results from the Exeter Community Safety Partnership, led by the University of Exeter, and which received £72,565 to tackle crimes against women at night, following a successful bid for Home Office funding late last year.

Peter Scargill, Director of Commercial, Residential & Campus Services at the University of Exeter and who led the bid said: “We are delighted to launch this important Safety Charter for Exeter, which reaffirms our commitment to enhancing safety measures across the city, especially at night.

“It is imperative that we strive to continually take steps to improve safety measures wherever possible. All women have the right to enjoy Exeter in the evening, at night and to feel safe, and we are committed to achieving that by doing more to prevent violence, support victims, pursue perpetrators and change behaviours.

“This Safety of Women at Night Charter is a significant step in helping to bringing about a step-change in behaviour, attitudes and collective responsibility to ensure Exeter is a city that is welcoming, safe and secure for everyone to enjoy.”

The new Charter seeks commitment from all organisations in Exeter, including licensed premises, late night refreshment venues, cultural and hospitality venues, educational establishments, leisure facilities, accommodation providers, statutory services transport providers and retail outlets.

This commitment is outlined in seven, well-defined themes for each organisation to implement and support. These are:

Change the conversation – Reaffirming the commitment away from what women can do to keep themselves safe, to one focussing on addressing sexist attitudes and inappropriate behaviours exhibited by some men.
Champion – Encouraging organisations to appoint a ‘Champion’ for women’s safety, to adopt meaningful activities and advocate for practical and cultural changes, as well as engage colleagues constructively and positively when taking action to address women’s safety.
Communicate – Run positive, public and staff facing communications, both online and in person.
Support Staff – Create clear routes for reporting unacceptable behaviour while at work and lead cultural change.
Support the public – Create clear routes for reporting unacceptable behaviour while using services or spaces at night
Training: responding and recording – Train staff on how to respond when an issue occurs, including what to say and do and any relevant policies. Train staff on information sharing and appropriate recording of details.
Designing for Safety – Audit spaces and adapt them to promote a safer environment and reduce risk of crime.
The Charter was designed and informed by responses from a recent SWaN survey, designed to gather feedback on how women feel when in the city, particularly at night, and for that feedback to inform the CSPs Safety of Women at Night (SWaN) project.

Over 1,500 women completed the survey – with 71% aged between 18 and 44. A quarter of those polled also said they had been affected by a sexual offence while one third said they have been harassed in the last three years.

Respondents said they were more likely to feel unsafe in outside spaces, such as making their way home (70.7% or moving between establishments (42.7%)

Asked what they disliked about Exeter at night, most (70.0%) stated drunken behaviour. This was followed by the behaviour of others (59.8%), aggressive behaviour (59.3%), and a lack of police (48.4%). Almost half said they disliked the presence of gangs or groups (45.1%).

Poor lighting (37.1%) and a lack of safe public transport (31.2%) were also key concerns with just 28 people stating they didn’t dislike anything about Exeter at night.

However, women’s key fear was the threat they felt when alone – 86.3% stating they would feel ‘unsafe’ or ‘very unsafe’ walking down a street or alley by themselves. Fear decreased significantly when in the presence of friends

Superintendent Antony Hart, who is also chair of Exeter’s Community Safety Partnership, said: “The safety of women and girls is a key focus for the police and the Police and Crime Commissioner and the launch of this charter is just one of seven different initiatives we have developed as part of the Safety of Women at Night (SWaN) project to make Exeter a safer place for women and girls.

“We continue to work with licensed premises and other organisations on a whole range of measures that I hope will help alleviate women’s fears when they come out to enjoy this wonderful city. By signing this charter those organisations can show that they too share that desire.

“The charter will help us and other organisations to focus on the issues which matter to people in Exeter. This will be a significant legacy for the SWaN project.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez said: “By working strategically with our partners, and by listening to the voices of women and girls across Devon and Cornwall, we are getting a very clear picture of what is expected of those of us who can make change happen.

“All this important local work gives us the ammunition we need to lobby for fundamental change on a national stage, which is vitally important because, what we’re doing now isn’t working well enough and women still don’t feel safe on our streets, in our open spaces and often in our homes.”

Amy Lamé, London’s Night Czar, said: “All women and girls should feel safe travelling, working or going out at night. In London, our Women’s Night Safety Charter is already making a real difference, with a range of sectors and industries providing specialist staff training and making design changes to physical spaces to help improve women’s safety.

“I look forward to seeing similar positive results as Exeter embarks on its own journey.”

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