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Giant projection marks launch of public information campaign tackling harassment of women in Exeter

An eye-catching giant projection appeared in Princesshay, Exeter yesterday to mark the launch of a public information campaign in the city centre.

The campaign, run by the Safer Exeter Partnership, aims to tackle harassment of women and girls in Exeter by encouraging people to intervene in a safe and skilful way, if they witness inappropriate behaviour in public places.

To kickstart the six-week multi-channel campaign, a Guerilla style projection stunt was staged, with a campaign visual projected onto the vacant Topshop building in Princesshay. Representatives from the Safer Exeter Partnership, along with key delegates from the Exeter business community, attended the event to witness the projection and raise awareness of the campaign.

The Safer Exeter Partnership is made up of different organisations including Devon County Council, Exeter City Council, the Police, the Fire and Rescue Service, University of Exeter, Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and other community groups and local businesses. The group aims to ensure Exeter remains a safe city and proactively tackles antisocial and criminal behaviour, including abuse and violence against women and girls, hate crime, extremism and organised crime.

A recent study from UN Women found that in the UK, 71% of women have experienced sexual harassment in a public space.*

The public information campaign focuses on the need for positive action from the Exeter community, spurring people to step up and do the right thing when they witness women at risk in public spaces. The typography led campaign features a series of comments used to diffuse situations where women are being harassed in public places.

The aim of the campaign is to encourage people to access advice and resources to help them intervene safely. These resources include free bystander intervention training, where people are given the opportunity to develop crucial skills to help stop harassment in public places.

The free bystander training is run by Kindling, an initiative founded in 2019 by Dr Rachel Fenton, Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter, and Dr Nathan Eisenstadt, Senior Research Associate at the University of Bristol Medical School. Kindling delivers bespoke bystander training to workplaces, universities, sports clubs and communities to provide people with the practical skills to make impactful interventions and tackle microaggressions and other harmful behaviours. Kindling worked with Exeter marketing agency Program to devise the groundbreaking public information campaign.

Nathan Eisenstadt, Co-Founder of Kindling Interventions and Senior Research Associate at the University of Bristol Medical School, said: “The aim of the campaign is to get people thinking about what street harassment is and how to challenge it. Our bystander training takes this a step further, helping people to gain the confidence to notice and skilfully intervene in potentially harmful situations.

“’Intervening’ can be as simple as creating a distraction, like asking for the time, checking in with someone we think might be at risk, or getting assistance from a friend or specialist (calling 999). We can also intervene ‘after the fact’, like chatting to a mate about how they acted the night before, opening up a ‘deeper’ conversation that might change their behaviour in future.

“Key to the bystander approach is also the idea that ‘low level’ behaviours, like ‘banter’ or jokes that subtly degrade women, create the foundation of higher level harms, like sexual assault. While we might never witness a sexual assault, we’ll all likely witness the lower level stuff so we all have a role to play in preventing higher level harms by intervening at the lower level.”

Alison Hernandez, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, commented: “As one of the partners for the Safer Exeter initiative, I am incredibly proud to be supporting this new campaign to encourage people to take effective and non-confrontational action when they witness antisocial behaviour or harassment towards women in our city. It is deeply troubling that so many women and girls in our community feel unsafe at night, and we must all do what we can to make Exeter a safer city and prevent violence and abuse on our streets.

“I encourage as many people as possible to register for the free bystander training, and better equip yourself with these potentially life-saving skills.”

To find out more about the Safer Exeter campaign, how to spot harassment and what you can do to make Exeter a safer city, please visit: https://exeter.gov.uk/bystander

To find out more about the Safer Exeter Partnership, please visit: www.exeter.gov.uk/clean-safe-city/community-safety/safer-exeter

*www.unwomenuk.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/APPG-UN-Women-Sexual-Harassment-Report_Updated.pdf