A new government strategy to ensure women and girls are safe everywhere has been launched by Home Secretary Priti Patel.
The strategy sets out a clear ambition to increase support for victims and survivors, increase the number of perpetrators brought to justice and to reduce the prevalence of violence against women and girls in the long-term.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The safety of women and girls across the country, wherever they are, is an absolute priority for me.
“It is unacceptable that women and girls are still subject to harassment, abuse, and violence, and I do not accept that violence against women and girls is inevitable.
“I am determined to give the police the powers they need to crack down on perpetrators and carry out their duties to protect the public whilst providing victims with the care and support they deserve.
“This strategy, shaped by the responses of those who bravely came forward and shared their stories and experiences, will deliver real and lasting change,” she added.
Earlier this year the Home Secretary reopened the government’s call for evidence on tackling crimes that disproportionately affect women. The Home Office received an unprecedented 160,000 further responses over two weeks, taking the total to over 180,000 responses which have helped shape the new strategy.
The strategy will further support the action already being taken to improve the criminal justice response to rape, toughen sentences and protection for victims through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, as well as the recruitment of 20,000 more police officers.
The move comes following the tragic death of Sarah Everard in March and the subsequent public conversation on the safety of women and girls.
A new online tool ‘StreetSafe’ will enable victims and survivors to share their views on tackling crimes. This follows on from further measures taken this year, including investing an additional £25 million into the Safer Streets Fund focused on increasing the safety of public spaces for all, with a particular focus on areas of concern for women and girls
While the strategy is focusing on long term change, the government is also taking immediate steps to improve safety for women and girls, focusing on practical action to bolster physical safety in public spaces. This includes:
The strategy will increase support for victims and survivors, ensuring they have access to services appropriate to their needs including additional support to help teachers deliver the relationships, sex and health education curriculum effectively and confidently and a 24/7 rape and sexual assault helpline.
To prevent these crimes from happening in the first place the Department for Education will work with the Office for Students to tackle sexual harassment and abuse in higher education and the Home Office will invest in understanding ‘what works’ to prevent violence against women and girls.
To pursue perpetrators and ensure they are facing the full force of the law the Home Office will appoint an independent reviewer to undertake a review of the management of registered sex offenders by the police and will provide new investment for the National Crime Agency to develop innovative data capability to identify new methods of identifying serial sex offenders.
The Home Office will also launch a multi-million communications campaign with a focus on targeting perpetrators and harmful misogynistic attitudes, educating young people about healthy relationships and ensuring victims can access support.
Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford said: “It is vital that girls and young women feel protected and confident, both inside and outside of school or college.
“We are strengthening support for schools and colleges to help them recognise and respond to sexual abuse and recently set up the Report Abuse in Education NSPCC helpline so there is a dedicated route to raise concerns. We will also be working alongside the Children’s Commissioner to tackle online abuse and with the Office for Students to ensure all students feel safe and able to report incidents of sexual harassment and violence,” she added.
Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “No woman should ever be made to feel unsafe on public transport which is why we’ll be working with operators across all modes to address the problems vulnerable passengers face.
“I’m delighted that Laura Shoaf and Anne Shaw will be our new VAWG Transport Champions. They bring a wealth of expertise and experience to the role and I look forward to working with them as we help deliver real change on the ground.
“Our new call for evidence will also help give us the information we need to help ensure streets are designed so that everyone, especially women, can feel safe and confident using them."
This strategy will be followed by a dedicated and complementary domestic abuse strategy later this year. The domestic abuse strategy will also be informed by the call for evidence and share the same strategic objectives as this strategy.