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Alice Jackson, 21, and Rachel Chung, 27, both students and Edinburgh University, launched the volunteer group, named ‘Strut Safe’ following a vigil held at the Meadows for Sarah Everard who was murdered in London while walking home on March 3 this year.
Ms Everard’s death sparked a larger conversation surrounding violence against women and vigils and memorials were held nationally.
“After the tragic death of Sarah Everard and the discussions which followed about women and marginalised groups feeling vulnerable, Rachel and I were feeling frustrated about what we could actively do.
“When we went to the Meadows vigil, there were lots of people speaking about their experiences about walking home, and being followed and we felt a lot of anger deeply.
“Rachel got up and said on the megaphone that if anyone ever felt unsafe to walk home alone, that people could get in touch and she would walk them home. Then we were speaking after about putting an infrastructure in place, like a community volunteer group to ensure that people feel safe walking home.”
After carrying out some research in Facebook community groups, the two found that 77 per cent of respondents to their questionnaire have felt unsafe in the Edinburgh area occasionally, frequently or always, and had avoided making a journey on foot to stay safe.
Strut Safe launched on Friday April 16, and as a pilot is beginning to work on the weekends.
The group describes itself as ‘a free non-judgemental service dedicated to getting women, queer people, people of colour and anyone who needs us home safely.’
Currently, the volunteers can be contacted on Friday and Saturday nights between 7pm and 3am and Sunday nights from 7pm until 1am. As they begin operating, the volunteers are currently able to walk home people in postcodes EH1, EH2, EH3, EH8 and EH9.
Anyone who finds themselves alone and in need of a walking buddy to get them to their destination are able to call or text Strut Safe on 07783237533.
The dispatcher will then assign a volunteer pair to escort the user home.
Strut Safe added that volunteers are vetted and follow a strict code of conduct and are identifiable by lanyards.
“I think we as women feel so frustrated,” Alice said, “There’s a real sense of anger and frustration as to why can’t I walk home on my own?
“When I was initially looking for volunteers, I put a video out on my Instagram story which said that this narrative is about women and marginalised groups, a lot of men don’t know where to start or how they can help. I said if you, as a man, don’t know where to start this is what you can do.”
The two have been recruiting volunteers for the past two weeks which has involved interviewing people and following up with references that they have provided. As the volunteer group expands, they hope to carry out DBS checks, but currently are financially limited and do want to see if the service takes off first.
Volunteers who are dispatched to assist someone home are sent out in pairs to reassure users.
Alice added: “I went to first call out on Friday, as we grow we want to cover more postcodes and want to expand across Edinburgh.
“We’ve recently had nightclubs - Atik, Lulus and Rascals - reach out to us and have asked to become official partners which means that they would put our contact information in their branding and ensure people at the clubs know that we are available.”
Speaking about the response to launching the service, Alice added: “I just want to thank my family and friends for the support with launching Strut Safe, Rachel and my friend Levi who has come on board as another director have been incredible at helping this launch and working through the details of the operation.
“The response from the public about Strut Safe has been amazing I’m blown away by how supportive people have been.”