Sarah Everard: Women are forced to rely on security apps after a year

The murder of Sarah Everard a year ago sparked a national debate about violence against women (Image: Getty/ PA/ SafeUP)

The murder of Sarah Everard a year ago sparked a national debate about violence against women (Image: Getty/PA/SafeUp)

women a London prefers to use personal security apps when in danger rather than calling the Metropolitan Police for help.

It has been a year today since Sarah Everard was kidnapped, raped and murdered by serving constable Wayne Couzens as she was walking home from a friend’s house near Clapham Common.

In the 12 months since her death, others – like elementary school teacher Sabina Nessa – have died at the hands of men, sparking a nationwide outcry for urgent change.

Despite police reassurances and Priti Patel’s recent announcement of a campaign to tackle perpetrators of sexual harassment, many still walk in fear, armed with keys between their fingers and a rape alarm.

Such is the case of Harry Mary-Ann Adams, who began using the SafeUp social network after being repeatedly followed and harassed on the streets of the capital, particularly in East London.

The singer-songwriter has told that she has had more phone calls in the last year than she has in her entire life.

“It’s just ridiculous,” said the 24-year-old. “I walked to and from my studio in Hackney and it was a 10 minute walk and I was harassed 14 times. A 10 minute walk took me 40 minutes, that’s a joke.

Harry Mary-Ann Adams, 24, told she’s had more phone calls in the last year than in her entire life (Image: Harry Mary-Ann Adams)

“It started with two men in a van yelling at me, then a cyclist yelled at me, and then a guy from an apartment yelled ‘sexy legs’ at me.”

Hours later, another man began following Harry, harassing her for her phone number and blocking her path.

She stumbled across SafeUp a few months ago after the founders followed her on Instagram, impressed by one of her singles describing her experience with catcalling.

Launched just a year ago, the app allows women to look out for each other when they’re feeling insecure.

Members are connected to trained caregivers in the same area who will phone them until they are safe, or even meet them if needed.

Harry said, “Do you know when you go home and call a friend? Basically it is, but you call SafeUp when you don’t have anyone to call.

“You feel a little bit safer because you’re on the phone with someone nearby who might be able to meet you if something happens.

Images of victims of male violence are pictured outside New Scotland Yard during a vigil by dozens of Million Women Rise supporters last November (Image: Getty)

Images of victims of male violence are pictured outside New Scotland Yard during a vigil by dozens of Million Women Rise supporters last November (Image: Getty)
After the tragic murder of Sarah Everard, vigils and demonstrations have taken place across the UK under the banner of a growing movement, Reclaim These Streets (Image: Rex/Shutterstock)

“When I first signed up for it, I thought you can only use it when you go home and someone is bothering you, so I haven’t used it in ages.

“But then I was told you can use it whenever you want and call the girls if you don’t feel safe — not just if you’re being harassed or being followed.”

“I think what happened with Sarah Everard really opened the public’s eyes to what’s happening to women. But her death made me more suspicious of the police system.

“So if anything happened to me, I would probably call a guardian.”

According to SafeUp data, nearly nine out of 10 women feel uncomfortable walking alone after dark and avoid certain activities every day, like exercising or going to bars.

The areas where its members are most active in the capital are Tower Hamlets, Islington, Camden, Southwark and Lambeth.

CEO Neta Schreiber created the app after a “life-changing” encounter at a house party 10 years ago when she was in her 20s.

Floral tributes and candles surround a photographer who was left on the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly where primary school teacher Ashling Murphy was found in January (Image: PA)
PElementary school teacher Sabina Nessa was murdered in a “deliberate and predatory” attack by a stranger in south-east London on September 17 (Image: PA)

At some point she realized that she couldn’t find one of her friends and together with another friend they started looking for her.

During the search, Neta heard her friend’s screams from one of the rooms, and when she opened the door, she saw her half-naked fighting with two guys standing over her, trying to overpower her.

As soon as the men realized that other people were in the room, they ran away, making Neta realize that she had “saved” her friend’s life.

SafeUp originally launched in March 2021 in Tel Aviv – where the co-founder lives – but after the terrible news of what happened to Sarah Everard reached Israel, she decided to settle in London.

She said: “There have been a few cases in London over the last year. We have seen many women here showing interest and looking for a solution.

“There is already an established community of Wardens in the capital, but we want to expand it and bring it to more places.”

Neta confirmed that all members – including legal guardians – are verified when they sign up for the app, ensuring that behind every profile is a woman who wants to bring safety to the community.

Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, was kidnapped in south London during lockdown (Image: Getty)
Sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman were stabbed to death by Danyal Hussein in north-west London in June 2020 (Image: PA)

Only people who identify as women can join SafeUp, but she hopes to develop a separate app in the future for LGBT+ people who also face street harassment.

Despite urging women to sign up for the app, the founder insisted they were “not trying to replace the police.”

She said: “Most of the cases that we see on the app is that gray area where women don’t necessarily feel comfortable asking for help and unfortunately, Women don’t trust the police.

“Eventually they trust another woman from the community that we offer. But we always end up calling the police in extreme cases because we don’t have the professional capacity to deal with such an incident.

“And going forward, we’re considering how best to work with the armed forces and the community.”

Police forces in England and Wales recorded 63,136 rapes in the 12 months to September 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This was a 13% increase from the previous period – but only 1.3% resulted in a suspect being charged.

Last year, the Home Office piloted StreetSafe — an online tool that allows people to anonymously flag public places where they feel unsafe — like poorly lit sidewalks or streets where they’ve been harassed.

At the time, End Violence Against Women called it a waste of public money, adding that such measures likely “do nothing to address the root causes” of violence.

A Met Police spokesman insisted the force was “absolutely committed” to combating all forms of violence against women.

They said, “We encourage victims of violence, sex offenses and harassment to report incidents to us so we can support victims and ensure we bring offenders to justice.”

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Justin Scacco

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