By Isabella and Amber Wiles
Following a spate of violence against women in the UK, an inspiring group of women in the Hull area decided enough was enough. They came together in the fight against violence towards women, and created ‘Justice for Our Sisters’, a group designed to be a safe space for women to share their own personal stories and experiences. On the 24th October 2021, the group organised a protest in Hull City Centre, where many incredibly brave women spoke openly about their own personal experiences and came together to fight for our right to feel safe on our streets. President of the HullFire, Amber Wiles spoke to one of their members, Ceri.
Amber- Why did you decide to set up Justice for Our Sisters?
- Ceri- So I didn’t set it up, but our founder, after the deaths of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, decided that she really wanted to bring women together, so she put a call out to different women she knew, to groups of friends and we all joined up. Some of us are quite experienced activists, some of us had never done it before. I’d never done any activism before, but we are all from different backgrounds so we kind of shared our skills and knowledge and managed to bring it together and put together the protest.
Amber- What do you feel like the impact is of setting up groups like yours?
- Ceri- It seems to have had a big impact because I at the protest we ended up having to scrap all the speeches that we had planned because so many people wanted to get up and speak. We’ve also had a huge response on social media, women getting in touch with us to tell their stories or share information, so it does seem to have had a really big impact which is amazing.
Did you want Justice for our Sisters to be a place where people could feel safe to share their experiences and stories?
- Ceri- Yeah, I think so, because obviously the stuff that tends to get coverage in the news, is often the really horrible extreme end of things, but I would say every woman I know has had multiple horrible things happen to them. Sometimes this will be low level experience, but it still happened, so I think just creating a safe space where women can discuss these experiences, hopefully will make people realise what they have been through. Also, I hope it enables men to see what we go through on a daily basis, because I think that’s really important is so many men don’t see that its every single woman they know
After the polls that you had posted on social media, did you find that people had looked at that and thought about things that had happened to them?
- Ceri- Definitely, I think as women we are taught to kind of minimise stuff that happens to us, even if it has been quite damaging, so yeah definitely the polls on social media and the people that got up to speak I think will have had quite a big impact on people and made them understand what a massive issue this is.
Where you surprised at how many people responded to the case that they had been faced with harassment, was this a shock to you all?
- Ceri- Unfortunately, I don’t think it really was a shock because I’d say that everyone in our group has had stuff happen to them, yeah I don’t think it was necessarily a shock but it was amazing to see how brave people were in sharing their stories, whether that was standing up at the protest or stories we got sent in that some of it is stuff that they had never told anyone, so yeah it’s been pretty amazing.
How do you think the protest went, are you planning any more?
- Ceri- We were really pleased with it because we put it together and didn’t feel like we fully knew what we were doing and then loads of people turned up and there was this great response. We are also planning more things, obviously recently we have been trying to sort out things with Spiders and other nightclubs, we are kind of focusing on that at the moment, seeing what we can do about that.
How was the response from places like Spiders because I know that they had a backlash to their reaction to the whole thing, I saw you posted a letter about it but what was their response?
- Ceri– They haven’t responded to us, which is really disappointing because there is so many other night clubs in hull like Asylum or Welly that are doing all this stuff to help women feel safer so it’s really a bit shocking.
- Amber- I think as well, somewhere like spiders that is kind of an institution in Hull, I read the post on social media, and I actually thought it was a joke at first because it was just pure ignorance of the current climate. I thought your response was a perfect articulation of many people’s responses. I think it did impact people a lot because of its popularity. It’s just a shame that they didn’t respond.
- Ceri- I totally get what you mean, I have been going to spiders for 15 years and I always felt like it was this place for people like me and for it to feel like they don’t have any respect for half the population is just shocking.
Have you found since setting up the group that places you thought were safe spaces or people that you thought would be more understanding have shunned away from talking about these things?
- Ceri- Yeah I think so, I think people find it quite a difficult topic and maybe people don’t really want to acknowledge the scale of the problem or that its happening at all and so you do get some resistance from people. Then there are places like Welly and Propaganda that we wouldn’t have necessarily expected to respond but have done a really good job at keeping people safe.
Have you spoken to anyone at the University or the Union for them to get involved in some capacity?
- Ceri- So we have linked up with the Hull Feminist society and also with Holly Burton and Phoebe Bastiani at the union and they’ve been really helpful, and Holly and Phoebe are doing amazing stuff to help female students so that’s been really good.
Do you think that more reaction from the actual university rather than the union is something that needs to be improved?
- Ceri- I think so because I mean the Union is the voice of the students, it’s the younger peoples voices, and I think that the University needs to pay attention and I mean people like Holly and Phoebe they know what to do and they are so good at advocating for students, so the University does need to listen to those voices. I think the University could be a really big help because you’ve got men in their late teens and early twenties which is a key time to educate men to lose these sorts of toxic attitudes that they have towards women.
Ceri – If any students want to be part of the group, you can get in touch with us on social media. We welcome anyone who would want to speak or who would want to write something about their experience.
Instagram and Facebook- Justice For Our Sisters