By Eirian Jones | Contributor
“This is a crisis. We need to make the safety of women and girls a priority.”
On Tuesday October 5, Natasha Peacock spoke these words, having organised what was an emotional vigil in honour of school teacher Sabina Nessa in Eastbourne, the seaside town where the man suspected of her killing was arrested late last month.
Only a few months after 33-year-old Sarah Everard was murdered by a police officer, almost 200 people gathered to pay tribute to Nessa and to call for an end to gendered violence against women.
At 7 pm, many of those gathered paused in thoughtful reflection whilst a Muslim poem was read out. The peaceful protest lasted for about an hour and was brought to a close with a minute’s silence as people raised their phone torches into the darkened sky.
The 28-year-old had been walking to meet a friend at a pub near her home – a journey which should normally take five minutes – when she was fatally attacked on September 17. Her body was found nearly 24 hours later covered in leaves near a community centre in Cator Park, south-east London, 200 yards from her home.
Many of those gathered at the peaceful vigil held pictures of Nessa, whilst others carried signs calling out male violence or remembering Everard. One placard asked “When will women be safe?” whilst another read: “She was just walking home”.
Amongst the various speakers, Peacock, a co-organiser, said: “Sabina Nessa should still be alive. She was loved and she will be deeply missed”.
“Women are frightened for their lives. We are having to consider the risk of going out alone past 6 pm and potentially getting attacked, raped or murdered and the advice [given by the Metropolitan Police] to flag down busses does not make us feel safe.”
She said the vigil had been organised “to mourn Sabina and the other 109 women killed this year due to male violence” and described it as “a peaceful protest to say that we need to make the safety of women and girls a priority”.
Another attendee, Nicolette Florides, said: “A lot of the girls around me are too scared to walk home. We want the community to make girls and women feel safe.”
Marie Goodchild added: “The police force needs more resources and there needs to be more victim support. There should be a safe space for victims to come forward, not feel humiliated or that you are going to get scrutinised if you do come forward.”
Koci Selamaj was arrested in the East Sussex town in the early hours of September 26 and has been charged with Nessa’s murder. The 36-year-old has indicated that he will deny the charge of murder and will plead not guilty. He has been remanded in custody ahead of the plea hearing on December 16.
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