A county councillor representing Ramsgate has urged Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner to widen the scope of a recent survey about the level of violence experienced by women and girls in the county.
Cllr Karen Constantine said the survey, which had 8,200 responses, should have included views from girls under 16. She has also highlighted how young men are among victims of random attacks.
Among actions Cllr Constantine would like to see is the creation of a Sexual Abuse Referral Centre in, or near to, Thanet.
The survey was launched by the Kent PCC Matthew Scott in August to find out the extent of violence and abuse being perpetrated against women and girls in Kent, including online. He also wanted to know how safe women and girls felt in different aspects of their lives.
The questionnaire was open for 3 months, during which time 8,263 people filled it in. The results were published this week.
Anyone over the age of 16 was invited to respond. Just over 93% of those who did were women, with just over 3.5% men and the rest either preferring not to disclose or identifying as non-binary or other.
The questionnaire was anonymous, but asked some general questions about the respondents, namely how old they were, in which district they lived and their ethnicity. The overwhelming majority of respondents (88.6%) were white British, with 5.6% identifying as BAME or mixed race, 4% as white but not British and 1% preferring not to disclose.
Around 10% of the responses came from Thanet residents.
The majority of respondents had not been a victim of crime (69%), but some had been a victim of several crimes and younger women in particular reported they’d been a victim of harassment. The two other most experienced crimes were domestic abuse or sexual offences.
Sadly, just under 37% had reported these crimes. When asked why the others did not, it was repeatedly suggested they didn’t think they would be believed, or they didn’t think it would be taken seriously, or they felt it would have been too hard to prove, or it would have been her word against another’s.
Victim satisfaction scores showed that no criminal justice agency received a net positive result from victims of crime.
Mr Scott said: “I have heard loud and clear that women and girls want action from public agencies that will help make them feel safer. We need these organisations to work together to address these and commit to resolving issues in partnership. No longer can we pass problems around different agencies – we need joined up and co-ordinated action to make women and girls safer.”
On what could be done to make people feel safer one respondent from Thanet said well-lit streets meant safer communities. CCTV and increased police presence in areas including Cliftonville were also included,
Education, online harms and the criminal justice process were also raised
Mr Scott said: “In the next phase of the enquiry, we will be doing an anonymous deep dive of crime reports in Kent to focus on key trends and developments to help everyone pinpoint the actions they need to take and hearing more from victims about their experiences. But early commitments from the public sector to look at these issues and address those they are responsible for will be key ahead of the publication of my recommendations early next year.”
Cllr Constantine, who held a public meeting last month around the issue of female safety, said: “During my time as a County Councillor the issue of safety, and particularly for women and girls has come up as a concern repeatedly. I am also aware of how young men are attacked on our streets for no reason.
“This is extremely worrying. I know the police are overstretched, and whilst steps are being taken to improve the numbers of officers we are playing catch-up, as overall police numbers have been cut.
“This survey is a good initiative even if, in reality there are a relatively low number of people completing this across Kent as a whole. It is also disappointing to see under 16s excluded from this survey. They are also vulnerable and we need to take their issues into account.
“I was surprised and disappointed to see that women did not feel safe in their own homes across all age groups. I would like the PPC Mathew Scott to outline plans to improve this, perhaps utilising modern technology such as the doorbells which record and monitor activity outside homes. Using this could help people to feel safer, but cost, especially in Ramsgate where we have some of the lowest income households in Kent, is a factor.
“It’s also notable that people stick to well-lit areas to feel safe. This underscores the absolute necessity of ensuring all streets are well lit and repairs and adjustments to brightness are carried out promptly. This is another area our PPC could take action on. He must ensure Kent County Council fix lights swiftly, as the comment from a Thanet resident indicates.
“I would be extremely interested to know which town centres were ranked as feeling the most unsafe as Ramsgate is frequently reported to me as being an unsafe space, both during the day and at night.
“Overall, I would always encourage residents to report crime. What we desperately need is a return to ‘old fashioned’ beat policing, with more police officers on the ground undertaking regular interactions with the public and being ‘seen’.
“ I’d also like more police stations opened and staffed, and a SARC – Sexual Abuse Referral Centre – either located in Thanet, or much closer than Maidstone. We need to do much more and much better than this.”
The survey results can be seen at: https://www.kent-pcc.gov.uk/get-in-touch/consultations/violence-against-women-and-girls-survey/