We hoped ‘Me Too’ would be the moment things changed – they didn’t

Cllr Luisa Porritt

Cllr Luisa Porritt - Credit: Isabel Infantes/PA

When I lived in Paris as a student, I began cycling because I had too many dangerous encounters trying to get home at night on foot, by bus or metro. Getting on a bike meant no one could approach me during my journey. As long as I was peddling, I was free.

London is no different. As a trainee political journalist during the 2010 general election campaign, I did late shifts and early starts that meant travel to and from the office at night. After waiting for two night buses in the dark, simply getting home felt like an achievement.

This is the daily reality for all women, and the reason why Sarah Everard’s horrific story has sparked so much reflection and discussion. The UN reports 97% of women in the UK aged 18 to 24 have been sexually harassed, but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t 100%.

Every woman I know has a story. Those of us recounting trauma consider ourselves "lucky" because we’re still alive to talk about the near misses. The sad thing is, none of us believe anything will change.

We thought Me Too would be our turning point. I told my mother stories I’d never told anyone before, and she told me some of hers. We realised not much had changed, but hoped the conversations might lead somewhere.

Fast forward to today. A pregnant Meghan Markle reveals her experiences of racism and mental health struggles and is met with disbelief. In the days that follow, that knot in our stomachs about Sarah Everard’s disappearance gets a lot tighter.

We feel despondent, asking when there will be real progress to celebrate. When do conversations turn into societal change?

If the response is led by the men who talk of “making our streets safer”, I don’t hold out much hope. A deeply entrenched, poisonous patriarchal culture lies at the heart of why men harm women. We need to fix it or women will still be sharing their stories for years to come.

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  • Luisa Porritt is a Camden councillor for Belsize ward and the Liberal Democrat candidate in the London mayoral elections.