The following are speeches made at the vigil for Sarah Everard and Wenjing Lin, two young women killed as a result of male violence in the last month alone. People gathered on the steps of the Senedd, looking out to a blustery, mostly clear blue and pink sunset over Cardiff Bay, as women stood and spoke their minds. We’ve also included speeches from Swansea, where women met in remembrance despite the intimidation and threats by police.
Women united will never be defeated. Big up my sisters.
I want to commend everyone here today for refusing to be intimidated by the police. Thank you all for coming out despite the threats of fine and arrest against us. I am totally disgusted at the way the police have acted towards women’s grief and trauma, and I am so impressed at the strength of everyone who’s come out today.
We’re here today peacefully, safely to remember Sarah Everard, Wending Lin, Grace Millane, Amy Griffiths, Nicole Smallman, Bibaa Henry, and all of the other women and gender non-conforming people who have been the targets of police, state, and male violence.
We’re here for the millions of women, children, and LGBTQ+ people who’ve experienced domestic violence.
For the 85,000 of us who experience rape or sexual assault every year.
For them, for ourselves. For the 99% of victims who never see any justice.
I, and almost every one of my friends have survived sexual violence. When I was raped in 2018, I reported it to the police. The police told me they believed me. But they never arrested the perpetrator. He got to enjoy his life – I think he even went on holiday in the month after the incident – while I was left to pick up the pieces.
I will never forget the 10 month waiting list for ‘emergency’ therapy for the PTSD and suicidal thoughts I was experiencing. His cousin confronting me at work, to tell me his cousin would never do something like that. Or the fact a well-known Welsh feminist refused to comply with the police investigation for weeks, and then instagramming about being a feminist.
How can you move on when a violent man is protected by his family, friends, and the state? When he’s still walking the streets? When he’s in your home, your school, your workplace?
The police refuse to hold violent men accountable until we’re killed by them. That means 99% of violent men continue to face zero accountability. 99% of survivors have no justice. And it means that the warning signs of a potential kidnapper and murderer are ignored, again.
The police say they’re here to protect us.
But here in Cardiff, the police have shown they operate only to protect themselves and the state.
Mohamud Hassan, a healthy young black man, died following extreme contact with South Wales Police. Mouayed Bashir, another young black man who died following contact with Gwent Police. Christopher Kapessa was killed, and charging the killers was ‘not in the public interest’, Siyanda has been imprisoned for defending herself against a disgusting hate crime.
Four protestors who allegedly joined protests to call for justice for Mohamud have been arrested or ‘invited to interview’. How did the police identify these protestors, simply calling for justice and remembering a young man with his life ahead of him? And somehow they can’t find the footage of what happened to Mohamud in Cardiff Bay Police Station?
And now a woman has been killed by an Officer, and women are the ones seen to be making the streets unsafe, for the act of remembrance? We’re being harassed in our homes for calling for peaceful acts of remembrance, threatened with fines, and now arrested.
The police are the ones who are making our streets unsafe.
But this is just the start. I urge everyone who sought to attend these protests to keep coming out in solidarity with all protestors in Cardiff and South Wales as this police crackdown is set to continue. The Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill will add restrictions to protests if they ‘may result in serious disruption’, or if they could cause ‘serious unease, alarm, or distress’. The Home Secretary alone gets to decide what serious means.
This bill is an attack on all people in the UK, and most prominently the working class, black, brown, Asian, and ethnic minorities, women, LGBTQ+ people, the disabled, and the traveller community. Our freedom to gather and express grief, trauma, anger, and joy, will be totally limited.
So please keep coming together, keep standing against this. To quote Sisters Uncut, we will not be silenced, we will not ask for permission, and we will not be told what to do by violent men.’
We’ll keep standing together against the violence of men and the police. But we also need to start conversations about how we change this system which refuses to serve justice or accountability for any violence against women.
I am almost 31 years old. The first memory I have of a sexual assault by a stranger on the street was when I was 14 years old. A man was driving his car at low speed while he masturbated telling me how pretty I was and what a nice bump I had. I was coming back home in the afternoon with daylight, down a central street in my hometown in Seville (Spain). I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t tell anyone because I thought I had done something to make that happen. I didn’t tell anyone because I thought I was ashamed that I could do that. It wasn’t long before I realised that I wasn’t the one to blame for that. Realising that is fortunate. Realise that you should not hide, realise that you can continue to develop your style of dress, develop your freedom, realise that you can continue to be sexy, realise that you can remain independent, and realise that no one should cut off your freedom of movement. But that is not usual. The usual thing is that when you realise that you are the indisputable object of aggression, you begin to internalise habits of self-defence with which you will live your entire life as a woman.
In 2018 when I moved to Cardiff to start a new life, the welcome pack about the city I received from friends who already lived here included information about the public places in the city where sexual assaults on young female students had taken place and other places where to be careful at night because you risk being mugged. This is how we, women, live. Deciphering an encrypted message that exists for women on the streets and about the people who inhabit them.
We women talk about this, we all sometimes talk about how bad a stranger has made us feel in a public space with inappropriate words, with lewd looks, with touching, insisting when we have already said no or how everyone looked at us while we needed help. Men don’t talk about this, men don’t tell each other “yesterday I harassed a girl on the street” “last night I touched a girl’s ass in the crowd” “the other day I jerked off in the car while I was looking at a girl walking down the street ”.
Simply all, men and women, we assume that this is the case, that those are “things that happen”. But the reality is that girls and women grow up developing habits and behaviours that keep us safe from aggression, violence and that keep us alive. We do everything and more: go with each other, do not walk alone at night, change our clothes, have the phone in hand, calla someone, cross the sidewalk, use apps that tell where we are, self-defence, carry the keys between your fingers, walk fast, spray of pepper … And believe us, nobody helps us and we all end up looking for the mistakes we made to make that happen to us. But the fault was not mine, the fault was not where I was, the fault was not how I dressed. The stalker was you. The aggressor was you. The rapist was you. Also the society’s silence. We cannot remain silent when speaking is justice.
This is not a fight against men. It is a fight against a patriarchal system that oppresses us and judges us because of being a woman. And all state institutions are complicit when they don’t help us. In the United Kingdom, there were more than 58,000 reports of rape in 2019. On average, two women murdered a week at the hands of their partners or ex-partners. Although no official figures are collected in this country, there are organizations that work on it and estimate that three-quarters of domestic violence is perpetrated against women at the hands of their ex-partners or family members. Of the 173 victims of domestic violence in 2019, 146 were women. This is not domestic violence, this is gender violence, and this is violence against women.
We have an extremely serious problem with the prosecution of rapes and violence against women in this country and it is a fact that most rapists get away with it. Part of the reason for this is that investigations too often focus on the character, honesty and sexual history of women rather than on the actions and behaviour of the accused person.
But this is about all kinds of sexist violence, because violence is not only the murders that are clearly on the tip of the iceberg; the aggressions we suffer in the streets are also violence.
So let’s make something clear: we don’t need more police presence on the streets to resolve this problem. Everyone here has brothers, fathers, uncles, male partners, friends … what they should do is be scandalized by what other men do to women. You should also try every day to identify their macho and superior behaviours in order to change them. You have to tell other men “what you do is not right, it is abuse or harassment or violence”. We need to protect our daughters but what we need the most it’s educating better sons.
Women need to be united and men with us. Enough of thinking we are not worth anything and enough of not being able to own our bodies. Enough of putting the focus on the victim. We do not want to be brave women when we are in the streets. We want to be free.
I want to say a few things first of all. We are not just here to reclaim the streets for women, the police make people of colour unsafe daily so we are also here to demand justice for Mohamud. Second, a trans woman asked me yesterday if trans women were welcome at the protests – it is disgusting that she felt she had to ask that. There are people who use violence against us to attack our trans sisters and I will not stand for that.
It has been really emotional hearing all the women here’s stories but it also makes me angry because we’ve told them so many times. When we did it for #MeToo I thought ok we’ll do this, we’ll expose our trauma and humiliation and shame in public and then men will care. But they didn’t care.
A previous speaker said we aren’t fighting against men, we’re fighting against a patriarchal system and I agree but I do feel I’m fighting against men’s apathy. What will it take for them to care?
There are a lot of leftist and radical groups here – there are misogynists and creeps in your organisations because they’re everywhere. And if you’re a man you might not know but women know because we talk to keep ourselves safe. And we don’t tell you because we’re not sure we can trust you not to minimise it or to report back to them. We’re not just scared of men assaulting us, we’re scared of men betraying us and not standing up for us.
After a while it starts to feel like the apathy is there for a reason. Because you all benefit from us being scared. You all benefit.
When you’re on a night out and don’t have to worry about how to get home because the women will have thought about it. When your boss or another activist or whoever asks you out for a drink and you don’t think twice about going because you don’t have to. And you get those jobs and opportunities because you go to those networking events because you’re not scared. And in relationships you benefit. You don’t have to hit a woman to control them because other men do it for you. They make us grateful that you don’t hit us, for the bare minimum. They make us grateful when you don’t rape us. So many times I’ve heard a friend talk about having sex with someone for the first time and saying, “he was just so nice, you know?” Yes, I know. I know that means he didn’t ignore your boundaries. How did it become the exception for sex not to be a semi traumatic experience?
This can’t go on. And we can’t do any more than we’re already doing. We’ve done enough.
Hello! And firstly, thanks for showing up at what was a short notice event by all accounts. We are unable to march due to guidelines set under the Covid act – but I welcome you all to a vigil with grave importance. To get the requirements out of the way, I request that everyone sticks to a cross on the steps – and if unable to find a spot, remain distanced from the surroundings. Maintain the use of your masks and common sense in distance – we don’t want this granted hour to be dissipated due to restrictions. Keep safe and keep each other’s safety in mind.
We are gathering in solidarity with those affected by gender-based violence. It is fair to assume that nobody in attendance whether in person or in thought is likely to have met Sarah Everard, but in news of her story being told – we recognised a part of ourselves stitched into the narrative.
There are many women who may not have slept so soundly following the reporting. I send my heartfelt love to all who were retroactively affected by events that have remained with them, possibly buried and brought to the surface but remaining poignant given the outward push.
Those who speak openly, and those who hold those memories and feelings internally – we are all standing with you tonight.
This has come at a time where statistics have shown 97% of women under 24 have experienced a form of sexual assault, with 80% of all ages experiencing a form of sexual assault in public spaces.
Since 5th March, which is last Friday – six women and a little girl have been reported as being killed at the hands of men in the UK.
In the same week, 16 year old Wenjing Ling lost her life at the hands of a man in Rhondda. Just this February, 10 known women and 2 children were sexually assaulted in Singleton Park.
Relating to that spate of attacks, our primary news source in Wales was allowed to print victim blaming quotes from the man in question. This led to victims of those attacks having to waive their anonymity in order to speak up on the injustices served not only by the offender – but by the media.
It is estimated by Rape Crisis UK that only around 15% of people who experience sexual violence report the event to the police. Women have grown to know that these crimes are not always adequately dealt with and by nature of the patriarchal system we reside within – victims turn to self blame and shame. Women of colour, sex workers and trans women are statistically more likely to have unfair treatment by police following a report. They are silenced, and women by large remain afraid and vigilant.
Across social media and within their circles, women have been recalling their stories, but women shouldn’t have to pour their trauma into limited characters in order for these issues to be recognised by men, by other women, by the media or by the forces who are sworn to protect them.
Women shouldn’t be fighting for areas of their streets to be lit.
Women shouldn’t dress themselves with the forethought of whether an outfit is likely to end in a violent attack.
Women shouldn’t be told not to walk but instead to take a taxi, and then have to worry that their taxi will be the scene of a crime upon them.
Women should not fear approaching the police after an incident for worry of ridicule or disbelief.
Women shouldn’t feel as though there will always be a consistent and very real threat to their lives when they leave the house, armed with whichever learned behaviours are ingrained in them as self defence and protection.
Women have tried apps. They have tried keys. They have tried modesty, they have tried avoiding places and situations. They’ve tried panic buttons on pendants. They have tried flat shoes. They’ve avoided the night. They have screamed. They have kept their head down. They have hid in a crowd. They’ve crossed the road. They have tried defence classes. They have tried buddying with other women. They have called on the way home. They’ve texted when home. They have tried. They are done. And we are done.
And men should not be justifying the behaviours that lead to these events.
I have been unsure, over the course of the week, whether it has been more distressing to view friends and strangers flood all too relatable stories over their public platforms .. or to come to the realisation that this abuse is allowed to define us as women.
Abolition of the systems that allow this culture to perpetuate itself is not an aspirational ideal, it’s an immediate humanitarian demand. This is a productive opportunity for important conversations and change. To re-imagine how we deal with gender-based violence at its roots. It begins and ends with toxic masculinity, and it begins and ends with men.
It is ever important to not lose focus during these times, you are a part of a collective of women across the entire country standing in solidarity with 50% of the population who all stood for the same reason. Women do not feel safe, and won’t be safe until change is made towards our collective attitude on violence against women.
We come together to light our candles, in the name of the women who have been killed where a man has been charged or is the principle subject of a murder enquiry in the last year. I ask you now to light your candles whilst I read their names.
Shadika Mohsin Patel
Kelly Fitzgibbons and her two daughters
Daniella Espirito Santo
Emma Jame McParland
Yvonne known to loved ones as Vonnie Lawson McCann
Saman Mir Sacharvi
Poorma Kaameshwari Sivaraj and her child
Lauren Mae Boomer
Andreia Patricia Rodriguez Guilherme
Rose Marie Tinton
Bennyl Burke and her two year old daughter
Jane Doe, Aberdeen
Jane Done, Doncaster
Jane Done, Wolverhampton.