Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Rt Rev Anne Dyer: High time misogyny made a hate crime

Demonstrators during a Reclaim the Streets protest in Parliament Square, central London, in memory of Sarah Everard
Demonstrators during a Reclaim the Streets protest in Parliament Square, central London, in memory of Sarah Everard

I am not a woman who is often lost for words, but through the past week or so I have been struggling.

As the stories of violence against women, including sexual harassment on the streets, have been increasing, I have been experiencing a turbulence of emotions. I am angry and upset, depressed and disappointed, fearful and hypervigilant, all at the same time. Violence against women is a priority issue of concern for me – my No 1. It is the problem I speak about more than any other.

More than a week ago, we celebrated International Women’s Day. This is an opportunity to rejoice in the huge potential of women in the world, to rejoice in the diversity of gifts and experiences women bring to our shared life in society. This year’s celebration was followed swiftly by the publication of reports describing the experiences of many women with respect to the threats and violence that are part of everyday experience for many. When I read the YouGov report that in the UK 97% of young women aged between 18-25 had experienced sexual harassment in public places, my blood began to boil.

Then, sadly, the body of Sarah Everard was found, with the outpouring of grief and upset following her death that has been so visible through the last few days. Alongside this has been the annual reminder of how many women are killed, not by a stranger but by men they know well and often share a home with. I do not know a woman who has not been deeply troubled by all of this.

For me, it was the sight of women gathering together to “reclaim the streets” that touched a deep memory within me. This public display of anger and upset resonated with one of the key formational events in my life. I was reminded of the “reclaim the night” protests in West Yorkshire in the late 1970s.

I was born and brought up in West Yorkshire. Many readers will remember the murders that took place there between 1975 and 1980. Thirteen women were murdered (with seven other attempted murders) by Peter Sutcliffe, the so-called Yorkshire Ripper. I was 18 years old when the murders began. All of the murders and attacks were upsetting, but the one I remember most clearly was that of Barbara Leach. Barbara was a student in Bradford, a couple of years younger than me. She was murdered just a few minutes from where I lived. Before her murder, women were taking care when out at night, but after this murder, women were firmly instructed to remain indoors, or if going out, to only do so if accompanied by a man.

I remember the visceral fear of those times. Early one evening in September 1979, I remember standing outside our house, in the street, and looking down the road in the direction of the place where Barbara had been murdered and her body found. I was just yards from our front door, but I remember thinking: “Am I safe here?” The night was beginning to draw in, when should I go into the house and lock the door? I remember all this as if it were yesterday.

What followed were marches and protests. Woman wrote and carried placards, and raised their voices. It was not right that women should be made to feel so fearful, it was not right that we would have to modify our behaviour. It felt as though women had to take and bear all the responsibility for our own safety, while the young and older men in society did not have to adjust how they behaved at all.

We were told this was going to be a turning point. After these murders, and after the protests from so many women demanding safety on the streets, nothing would be the same again. Things would change. This was not the case, nothing changed, and in many ways things are worse now than they were in the late 1970s. Forty years on and women are protesting the same issues. The difference is that now we are better informed, we know the research numbers. We know about the low incidence of prosecutions for rape, of escalating domestic violence, of the ubiquity of sexual harassment of women by men on the streets.

Whatever happens next it cannot include telling women things will be better without making some significant changes. Changing the law and making misogyny a hate crime would be a start, making sexual harassment outdoors illegal a good follow on. We have no patience left for waiting. Actions are needed now.

The Rt Rev Anne Dyer is Episcopalian Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney and Scotland’s first female bishop

Already a subscriber? Sign in