'No simple solution' to solving women's safety concerns says head of Chesterfield College
The principal of Chesterfield College has warned there is ‘no simple solution’ to women’s safety concerns, as she calls for a whole host of interventions to help girls and women feel less at risk.
"I think we need to understand some of the reasons why this happens, it is almost the prevention not the cure”, said Julie Richards, who is also mother to two girls.
She added: "What is happening to an individual that takes them to a place where they attack someone else and create harm, whether that is rape or abuse or taking someone's life – very often it goes back to childhood and it goes back to some past experience.
"There's got to be a look at the early years curriculum, how we work with really young children and the safeguarding and support that is provided through children's services.”
The principal said children must be taught to be respectful of each other, along with a need for better parental resources to help identify potentially concerning behaviour.
She added: "I don't believe there is a one-size solution for this particular issue, it's a number of different interventions.
"The problem is there is so much human element attached to this – about people doing the right thing at the right time which makes it more challenging.”
She also raised concerns about use of social media and computer games.
"There is a lot of evidence to suggest there is a lot of male aggression and frustration developing from the types of games people are playing and what that does in terms of affecting the nervous system and how the brain responds to aggression,” she added.
"That is something for the gaming industry around are we actually allowing people to access too much violence, is there too much violence on TV?
"There are a whole host of things that need to be addressed, it is not simple.”
A recent survey from UN Women UK found that 97 per cent of women aged 18-24 said they had experienced sexual harassment while 80 per cent of women of all ages said they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces.
The principal said she had felt unsafe when working away from home, in multi-storey car parks, being in an unfamiliar settings or going down for dinner in a hotel and attracting unwanted attention.
"Thank goodness it doesn't happen on a regular basis but obviously when there is a tragedy such as Sarah Everard it really brings home the risks attached to being out alone and engaging with people that you don't know online which can lead to a similar outcome.
"I do think it is something that has been around for a long time.”
She said she has conversations with her daughters and students about precautions they can take to feel safer, such as always leaving the house with a fully charged phone, making sure people know where you are and what a healthy relationship looks like.
Chesterfield College also runs a tutorial programme called ‘Aspire’ which aims to help students build good citizenship and develop an understanding around equality, diversity and respect.
She added one of her key messages is to ensure young girls do not feel frightened and know concerns will be taken seriously and discussed confidentially.
"I really encourage my daughter to build those trusting relationships with girls and boys to ensure she always has a network of support.
"That's a really challenging balance for parents.
"You don't want to frighten them to death and you've also got to make sure they are aware about the safety in numbers and being alert to each other and looking after each other.”