Women’s safety is once again in the spotlight – and walking home at night is often when their fears are most acute. Now a telephone helpline called Strut Safe, launched in Edinburgh last year, is keeping people company when they walk home alone.
Alice, 22, and her friend Rachel Chung came up with the idea of a telephone helpline that people can call if they’re walking home alone at night in April 2021.
It wasn’t long after they had attended a vigil for Sarah Everard.
“We were devastated and angry,” Alice says, “so we bought a cheap burner phone, asked people to volunteer to answer it, and posted the number in community groups.”
The Strut Safe volunteers who answer calls are each interviewed, trained and background-checked. They’re there to chat and to provide reassurance, but sometimes callers are distressed and worried for their own safety.
Initially people heard about Strut Safe through word of mouth, now most people find and share their number on social media. And the volume of calls they receive each weekend varies, Alice says.
Answering the phones for Strut Safe has really opened Alice’s eyes to the extent of street harassment and violence, she says.
Funded by donations, Strut Safe operates on a shoestring, and Alice acknowledges it’s not a solution.
“But something exists now that didn’t exist before, we are here for anyone who needs us and more change will hopefully come.”
“Sometimes you come off a 20-minute call that’s been really emotionally intense, really serious. The caller might have been running at the end, crying. And then you’ll hang up, and you’re sitting on your sofa, the telly paused, and there’ll be silence,” Alice says.