The campaigning mum of a young Harborough woman brutally murdered is appealing to men everywhere to treat women properly after the tragic death of Sarah Everard.
Dr Sue Hills, 59, has made her plea as the death of 33-year-old Sarah has sparked a massive new national debate on just how safe women are.
And the mother-of-four is being backed by Lord Willy Bach, Leicestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner.
Sue, whose daughter Alice Ruggles, 24, was murdered by her soldier ex-boyfriend in Gateshead in October 2016, told the Harborough Mail: “This all comes down to men’s behaviour and learning how to behave correctly.
“Not all men by any means but some men.
“They have to learn what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.
“Unacceptable behaviour towards girls and women has to be called out,” said Sue, who set up the Alice Ruggles Trust to put an end to stalking and coercive control.
“I used to go swimming regularly with Alice in Harborough pool – but we had to stop going there.
“That was because guys used to lean on the edge of the pool before diving in to go under the water so that they could look at her.
“That’s obviously not acceptable behaviour.
“With religion we had morals and rules to go with it.
“But as we have thrown that out we have got nothing to replace it with,” said Sue, of Tur Langton, near Market Harborough.
“Unfortunately, some people are still learning what’s correct and what’s not correct.”
She said men’s attitudes and mindsets start to form from an early age at the grassroots – growing up at home and going to school.
“In some ways we have come a long way since 60 years ago when women were expected to stay at home and do the housework.
“But some people have gone the wrong way,” said Sue.
“It’s only men who carry out violence against women who can get their attitude right.
“It’s not the women who can put this right.”
She said men had to know and realise when “lad culture banter” was appropriate and when it wasn’t.
“There is a time and place for this – and it might be wrong.
“If you are feeling uncomfortable then it has to stop,” insisted Sue.
“Sarah Everard’s death is horrific.
“I’m sure that it will have a temporary effect (on attitudes and perception).
“But there are two women murdered every week in this country alone.
“It’s great to pick up on the tragedy of Sarah Everard.
“But what about all the other women who are murdered?
“It’s very important that we remember them too,” stressed Sue.
“So many women suffering terrible domestic abuse have been trapped during the pandemic lockdowns over the last year.
“It’s up to the whole of society, to all of us everywhere, to try to make sure that women are treated properly.”
Lord Bach, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicestershire, told the Mail: “Violence and abuse against women is a real problem.
“The harassment and bullying of women cannot and will not be tolerated.
“Some men have got to change their mindsets – and treat all women properly and as they would want to be treated themselves.”
Asked if men who target women should be handed tougher punishments and longer jail sentences, Lord Bach said: “Each case should be treated on its own merits.
“In some cases men should be locked up for longer.
“In others we have to look at other courses of action such as training and education.
“But all forms of violence and abuse towards women is entirely intolerable and we will in Harborough continue to tackle this massive issue.”
Julie McBrearty, the head of Welland Park Academy in Market Harborough, told the Mail: “We believe in total equity between boys and girls here at our school.
“We have a lot of positive role models among our teachers and our support staff.
“We teach and inculcate the values of tolerance and the role of the law.”
Julie added: “It is our duty to reinforce the need for appropriate conduct all the time.
“Our pupils are very good at respecting each other and looking up to each other.
“Boys and girls and different age groups mix all the time.
“We have peer support systems in place here as well and we will not tolerate bad behaviour full stop.”
The Harborough Mail has also asked women across Harborough for your views and experiences following Sarah Everard’s death and you can read here what you have told us: https://www.harboroughmail.co.uk/news/crime/the-vile-language-and-aggression-is-disgraceful-views-from-harborough-women-on-why-they-do-not-feel-safe-on-our-streets-3168821