A letter to my daughters, 9 and 6, about what happened on Clapham Common last night.
Dear Ella & Rosa,
It is important that you see this picture. The police are arresting this woman because they don’t think she should be there. It is still true that if you are ever in really big trouble the police are there to help you. But sometimes they get things really badly wrong too. This is one of those times. And hopefully a lot of things will change because of it. Like what happened to Rosa Parks, Rosa – where your name came from – sometimes bad things can lead to changes.
The woman in the picture is called Patsy Stevenson. She was there with all those other people because they were very sad and very angry about a terrible crime. A man kidnapped and killed a woman when she was on her way home a few days ago. Since then women and girls have shared lots and lots of stories about bad things that boys and men have said and done to them. You know from your books and things we’ve talked about that these things have happened for as long as anyone can remember. Because these bad things nearly always go unpunished, they keep happening.
You need to know you’re safe with your family, but it’s also important to know that bad things can happen, and feeling sad and angry about that is exactly right. Always be certain that this is not right. It shouldn’t be normal for girls and women to be attacked. Or bad things said to them. It shouldn’t be normal for the police to be so terrible at helping. Always be sure to be angry. I am here to be angry with you and help always. It is never a woman’s fault if they are attacked. None of these things are your fault. It’s the most awful and unfair thing in the world that you have to be worried about this. You will often become so very tired trying to make sense of it all and hearing that things will be better and it doesn’t get better.
There are lots of things we can do to try and help. We can support charities that save women from bad situations. We can write stories and letters. Talk to other people. It is important the police are told that they did wrong, and that they must change a lot of things they do now. We shouldn’t let people off who have the power to change all this. There’s loads of things they can do, but they don’t do it. We need to make sure they do their jobs better.
We also need to think about who we are and what we do. The hardest part in changing how all this works is being strong and confident enough to call out anyone close to you who is doing something wrong. That’s a really, really hard thing to do. But we need to do it. Otherwise change never comes, not really. You know I love big speeches and think they’re important. But, really that’s the easy bit. Very often people know other people who are doing wrong but do nothing about it, because it’s a really scary thing to do. It’s really scary, but really important. Always ask questions if you are never sure about something.
As your dad there’s loads of things I need to be better at helping with. That all men and boys need to do better. You know I love running, well because of all the stories that women have shared this week, I’m now trying to be extra careful to run a big distance away from girls and women on their own in case I scare them. There are lots of little things like that which can make a big difference if we all do them, they will add up.
I’m sorry things aren’t better. I’m sorry it’s going to take so much of your lifetimes to make things better. Keep asking questions. Keep being cross. I’m here to help in any way I can.