The spotlight is on personal safety at the moment following the murder of Sarah Everard and subsequent lobbying of Reclaim The Streets Movement and their campaign to Reclaim The Night.
We've had many conversations recently with peers and clients who are more focused than ever on securing personal safety at work and on business for employees.
This has certainly focused the mind and stimulated animated debate.
Al Garthwaite of Reclaim the Streets asserts that men and boys need to challenge other men on women's safety. Far from us to make living in fear a female issue, from our most successful article to date, Workplace Bullying or Coercive Control? we know that fear of bullying, violence, or intimidation does not discriminate in any way. Men as well as women have contacted us to discuss their experiences in response to that blog.
Thinking About Personal Safety at Work and on Business
Social media has been flooded with women sharing their experiences of having felt unsafe in public, as well as advice for men on how to help prevent this, in the wake of Sarah Everard’s disappearance.
We've been hearing stories too. Recent events have certainly got people focusing on their own personal experiences that caused feelings vulnerability. Certainly, Beverly, our Director recounted her experience in the early 2000s:
I travelled widely in the 90s and 2000s with my role, and considered myself to be streetwise. One morning I had an early meeting in London and was getting the 05:02 am train. I'd ordered a taxi and was picked up at the door. Little did I know this would be my most terrifying taxi ride ever. He started by inferring we'd be going to the station via a friends he owed money to. He then said he knew all the unmarked police cars in the area and would know if we were being followed, and proceeded to drive at 20 miles per hour in a 40 zone. Whilst continuing to tell me he had total control of the taxi, and could lock the doors from the front, and he did! By this time his behaviour was scaring me, not only by what he was saying but his continued watching me through the rear view mirror.
I was so unnerved by my experience, so early on a morning and in the dark, that I rummaged around in my bag to locate perfume to spray him in the eyes should he attack me.
We did arrive at the station, me, a bag of nerves, him smug! I'm ashamed to say, I didn't get his cab number, nor did I report it, in fact I was so pleased to get out, I thrust the money in his hand and had inadvertently given him a handsome tip!
Beverly also remembers being trapped next to the window on a train when an elderly man asked her if she was a student and began to rub his thighs, moving closer. She made her excuses for the loo and moved carriages!
One of our business associates recently told us about being harassed at night in Leeds whilst on business and out for supper. She had become detached from her group who were behind her and came across a group of youths who blocked her path harassing her. She shared how grateful she was that her colleagues caught up with her and the group dispersed.
Another, and possibly this relates more to workplace victimisation, however, it brought back memories of taunting. A young client of ours, a young guy, shared his experience of his first job. He doesn't drink, smoke, use recreational drugs, gamble or go clubbing. At the Friday end of week 'team scrum' where colleagues would have a beer, he was taunted weekly, feeling intimidated, ganged upon, colleagues saying:
You don't drink, don't smoke, what do you do!
He shared his discomfort and intimidation, perhaps not in fear of his personal safety, but fearful of this spilling into a public setting should he meet them out in the evening.
So How Can We Fix This?
A positive of the recent campaigning and media coverage is men coming out saying they need to be part of the culture change. We think this is key. Women can be cautious and educate their daughters to be aware, but if men don’t take responsibility there’s no hope. Mothers and fathers need to be educating their sons at an early age. We educate our children on right and wrong, this is the same thing - a conversation to be had! No one should live in fear. People fight for human rights and then we say to women, don’t walk in remote areas, be careful in car parks, don’t get a taxi alone.... It's the perpetrator culture change that needs to be addressed, whether the perpetrator is male or female.
But until then ....
Top 10 Tips for Personal Safety at Work and on Business
- Where possible have your company arrange travel and hotels on your behalf.
- If you arrange your own travel and accommodation give a colleague your itinerary detailing key locations, meeting and arrival times.
- When leaving for meetings as a lone worker, give your colleague, line manager or family member details of the meeting time and location, together with your expected time of return home or to the office.
- Where possible have personal safety devices that either sound or record your entry and departure from meetings.
- Book female business traveller friendly hotels. They will have policies such as not locating a lone female on the ground floor.
- Pre-book taxis and give someone the cab company details. If you must travel in a street cab, note the colour, vehicle make and cab number, if possible the vehicle registration number.
- Eat in the hotel rather than eating out, or eat close by, particularly in unfamiliar areas.
- Familiarise yourself with unknown areas in daylight if possible.
- When travelling on the train, if travelling standard class book an aisle seat or a table of four. Try to travel first class, preferably the restaurant car. Often it is cheaper than standard class if booked well in advance.
- Finally, how well do you know your colleagues? If you don't know them well don't accept a lift. It sounds strange but sometimes people may not always what they seem.
If you would like support putting personal safety in place for your employees contact us.