This International Women’s Day, girls and women in Blackburn with Darwen have spoken out about why they don’t feel safe walking the streets alone and what needs to be done to protect them.

Last Friday (March 3), marked the two-year anniversary since Sarah Everard was murdered by former Met Police officer Wayne Couzens, which has impacted girls and women across Blackburn with Darwen and the rest of the UK.

Police are supporting a government campaign, ‘StreetSafe’ which was launched to tackle violence against women and girls and to identify areas where there are fears but despite the launch of the app, the reaction from local people suggests the tool hasn’t managed to reassure or ease women’s worries.

Lancashire Constabulary has also run projects to improve the safety of lone female dog walkers, and offered advice to people on how they can keep safe.

Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire Andrew Snowden has also held a number of summits in collaboration with councils and the NHS to discuss how they can better work together to combat violence against women and girls.

Figures from Lancashire Constabulary show 75 per cent of more than 1,000 sexual assault reports between 2020 to 2022, were made by women.

Additionally, in 2022, 94 per cent of the defendants convicted of rape in Lancashire were men.

In response to how safe she feels walking the streets alone, Laura from Blackburn, said: “I've been lacing my keys through my fingers since I was a teenager to make sure I had something to protect myself.

“Something that was taught to me at an age when I shouldn't have had to know about it at all.”

Francesca, a runner from the area, added she only sticks to main roads but is still constantly looking over her shoulder while out exercising.

Ioana, a mum from Darwen, said: “I wouldn’t feel safe walking alone in my area or any other areas. Nothing can be done, evil people will always be out there.

“I used to do it when I was younger, walking home alone at night, etc, but not since having children. I would never put myself in that situation.

“No matter what gets done, how much you educate people, evil will always be out there. So it’s down to us to not put ourselves at risk.”

Responding to what should be done to protect women, Ellie, 23, from Blackburn said: “The responsibility shouldn’t lie on women to protect themselves.

"Encouraging women to take up self-defence classes or to only go out at a certain time is victim blaming.”

Responding to women feeling unsafe, PCSO Ros McInulty at Blackburn and Darwen Police has organised funding for female dog walkers, after being approached by a woman in a Darwen park who didn’t feel safe as the dark nights were drawing in.

After consulting the dog walkers about what would make them feel safe, she set up a two-pronged approach to solving the problem.

Firstly, she provided the females with a high viz belt that could be worn over clothing and their dogs were given high viz vests.

Secondly, the walkers were provided with flashlights with personal attack alarms should they get into any difficulties.

After applying for a £750 grant from LANPAC, PCSO McInulty was able to purchase 150 of each and these were handed out to lone female dog walkers who approached PCSO McInulty after they had heard about the initiative.

These items were also given to elderly and vulnerable males who requested them.

Offering advice on staying safe when out and about, a spokesperson for the police said: “If you drink to excess, you increase your vulnerability. Don’t leave your drink unattended or accept drinks from people you don't know.

“If you are out jogging or walking the dog use popular routes. If you want to use more rural routes or quieter routes go with friends or at the same time as other joggers/walkers.

“Trust your instincts. If you feel worried about a person, route or situation try to find a safe way out – change the direction you are walking in, shout help, walk towards a group of people or takeaway, flag down a passing car, ring the police.

"If you are wrong it doesn’t matter, if you are right it could make all the difference.”