The tragic death of Sarah Everard in South London will resonate with every woman in the country. Whenever a story like this hits the news it stirs it all up again, memories of events we had pushed to the darkest parts of our memories. People and politicians will talk about it for a while and it drops off the front pages but it never drops out of our minds.
From the age of 16 to 24 years old I experienced domestic abuse from a partner. The physical violence was sporadic but the emotional violence, the control and manipulation was daily. I lived for years ashamed and I kept it hidden, all through University and getting my MA. Some days I wonder how I survived. I finally found the courage to leave though, and I started a charity for other women at risk. I worked with many women who had been through far, far worse than me. Women who were homeless, had addictions or were involved in the sex trade. Many had been raped, attacked and abused. But it is not just the vulnerable who face violence. Violence and intimidation is an everyday experience for most women. And even if you don’t experience it, you fear it. You don’t walk through a park at night. You don’t run via a secluded cycle path. You try not to walk alone or in quiet places, even in the daytime. Things have to change. Women and girls must be able to feel safe. Violence and sexual assault are never acceptable. In the wake of what happened to poor Sarah Everard so many women are speaking out, telling of their own terrible personal experiences. And that underlines my determination that we need real change. We need to change attitudes in society and in the workplace and we need to think about how we can create a safe environment for women in our towns and cities and estates. We need to shape a new politics that listens to women and will act on what we are saying. We need to make things better and safer for women and for everyone. No one should be scared to walk the streets. That is one of the reasons I am in politics. I want to change things in Teesside for good. I want to make a difference.