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Vigils held in Edinburgh after Sarah Everard murder

TW: sexual assault, sexual violence

Vigils similar to those held in London for the murder of Sarah Everard have taken place in Edinburgh this week, both online and in the Meadows.

Several events have been held by the organisation, Reclaim These Streets, who were responsible for the vigil in Clapham Common. 

Reclaim These Streets states they are “organised by a group of women who wanted to channel the collective grief, outrage and sadness in our community.”

On Saturday 13 March, Reclaim These Streets organised an online vigil to “provide a space…to come together in mutual support and empowerment.”

It featured survivors of sexual harassment and violence and emphasised inclusivity for those seeking support for sexual violence. 

Among the speakers, organiser Chloe Whyte explained her motivation for organising the vigil, describing her own story as a victim of sexual assault. 

She noted the reaction of the police after the incident, stating that they had asked her “what could have could have motivated this person to have attacked you…is it because of what you’re wearing?”

She went on to describe how after becoming a victim of sexual assault for a second time, she “did not feel comfortable or have faith in the police, and therefore did not feel comfortable reporting it.”

The vigil saw further speakers, including a trauma counsellor, an actress and playwright, Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament and the Rape Crisis Centre manager.

In response to the killing of Sarah Everard by an active police officer, one speaker stated that “there are perpetrators of all forms of gender-based violence in patriarchal institutions, so let’s talk about that.

“I could do whatever I want to keep the night safe but it’s not me whose making it dangerous, it’s not you whose making it dangerous. 

“It’s the perpetrators, and also it’s not just about individual acts of violence. It is about the system that allows these perpetrators to go away.”   

Besides their online vigil, Reclaim These Streets also organised a socially distanced vigil in the Meadows on Monday evening, in which women spoke about their experiences of sexual assault.

They stated that following concerns over the legality of the Clapham Common vigil, Harriet Harman QC MP had written to the Metropolitan Police, stating that “Parliament has not specifically acted to constrain the right to demonstrate, so long as social distancing is observed.”

The Edinburgh based in person vigil also saw a number of women speak about their experiences of sexual assault, including speakers from the trans and non-binary communities. 

Speaking to Edinburgh Live, attendee Kat Cary stated that “it was very brief, and as it neared sunset, one of the organisers said that anyone who came alone should speak to one of the stewards who helped pair people up for safety.”

Further Edinburgh based projects have taken place in response to the Sarah Everard case, including Sarah’s Tree, a memorial established by two University of Edinburgh students.

People are encouraged to tie ribbons or leave a note on the Jawbone Walk tree, reflecting on prevalence of violence against women.

In response to the suspension of Lothian Buses last Wednesday evening, a member of the online community meadows share set up a crowd fund to provide taxis for female key workers relying on public transport to get home after dark. 

Moreover, Edinburgh based taxi firm City Cabs has launched a new initiative, ‘Home Safe’, to ensure that women can get home safely when bars and pubs reopen in April, by providing free, women-only, traceable rides. 

Image: Geograph