30 May 2024

“Use your voice”: Young people speak out at the Feeling Safe in Salisbury Schools’ Forum

Pupils at Godolphin School spoke out about what needs to be done to make Salisbury a safer place for young people this week.

The Feeling Safe in Salisbury Schools Forum saw students and staff from seven local secondary schools come together to learn about local initiatives to make Salisbury and the surrounding area a safer place for women and young people.

The event featured speakers such as Georgia Gallagher from the nighttime economy; Richard Goodman from Salisbury CCTV; Troy Smith and Rachel Gunn from Wiltshire Police; Helen Inglis from the local charity Alabare and Helen Stevens from the Sexual Trauma and Recovery Service talk about initiatives already underway in the City.

The keynote speaker of the afternoon was Soma Sara, the 22-year-old founder of ‘Everyone’s Invited’, an anonymous online safe space where survivors of sexual harassment and assault can share their stories.

Soma Sara

Speaking to Love Salisbury, Soma said, “Everyone’s Invited is about inclusivity, it’s about empowerment and the mission statement is to expose and eradicate rape culture with empathy, compassion and understanding.

“The whole idea is to encourage people to understand how individually how they are part of a rape culture and how they contribute to it, also encouraging that responsibility to become aware of it and actively change.”

During the forum, it was the girls from Godolphin Sixth who were really making their voices heard. Speaking at the event, Beth, 18, Meghan, 17, Lucy, 16, and Annabel, 17, spoke with passion and understanding about how they want to make a difference in the local community to help keep young people in Salisbury safe.

Godolphin Sixth

Speaking to Love Salisbury, Annabel said, “We were the only students who went to the first conference in November which we weren’t expecting because Salisbury is a very school-heavy city.

“I know some of the students here will be thinking ‘I have never heard of this before’ and this is why it is important for our age group to get involved. We are the Lower Sixth, we are looking at universities and different cities to go live in and to have knowledge of how to stay safe is really important.”

The girls say that before attending the conference, they were unaware of the local initiatives in place to keep women, girls and young people safe when on a night out.

Lucy said, “Before the conference, I didn’t know about ‘Ask Angela’, I didn’t know about pub watch and I didn’t know the Street Pastors. I am so glad I went to that conference and heard all about it because I would be clueless otherwise.

“We need more students to go to events like these. We need more representation from students and more awareness – by going to these forums it definitely spreads that message,” added Lucy.

Godolphin Sixth

For Megan, events like these help remove the stigma around speaking out about sexual violence.

“I think talking more about sexual harassment, removing the taboo from it and making sure you can talk about it openly and removing any negative language surrounding it or victim blaming is very important also.”

When it comes to Salisbury, the girls, who often walk up Milford Hill to get back to school, would like to see more street lighting.

“One thing I always say about Salisbury is that it is very dark. So things like having more street lighting would make people feel safer. We walk up Milford Hill and you can not see, it’s dark and The Chapel is just below the hill,” explained Annabel.

For the girls at Godolphin, the take-home message is “use your voice”.

“What we said at the start of term is ‘use your voice’ and I think that adults, who do know what to do, should also use their voice and tell young people what life is like because that is really crucial,” said Annabel.

“It is the knowledge and communication that is the most important aspect for me,” added Lucy.

Wiltshire Police

Soma Sara added, “I love working with schools and young people because I think it is so inspiring. Just watching those young girls talk about these issues with such passion and understanding is so moving to me.

“It’s when you’re young that you are the most impressionable, that is when you are building the beginnings of what you believe and how you behave. A lot of this behaviour is happening at this age and it is really important to begin that education and help them understand what the impact of dehumanising someone actually is.”

Keep up to date with Safer and Supportive Salisbury here and the Salisbury Soroptomists here.

Written by
Beth Doherty
View all articles
Written by Beth Doherty