White Ribbon Day 2021: ‘I’ve got PTSD’ - Activist Patsy Stevenson on violence against women
Patsy Stevenson, 28, has spoken out about police reform and violence against women and girls (VAWG), to mark White Ribbon Day 2021.
A photograph of Patsy Stevenson, on the floor with her hands held behind her back, became one of the defining images of the Clapham Common vigil.
She told LondonWorld: “I’ve got PTSD from it. When I hear a siren or see a blue light… I don’t want to be near the police anyway because of what happened.
“Misogyny is rife in the force and there are a lot of good ones but there are also bad ones and you don’t know who to trust.
“It’s quite scary - I trusted the police before this, fully, and now I don’t at all.”
Originally from Southend-on-Sea, Ms Stevenson was cast as a figurehead for women’s issues in the wake of the controversy over the policing of the demonstration.
Now the 28-year-old physics student has spoken out about police reform and violence against women and girls (VAWG), to mark White Ribbon Day 2021.
The awareness event calls on men to promise never to commit, excuse or remain silent about male violence against women.
Ms Stevenson, who attends Royal Holloway University of London, says her eyes have been opened to issues of “police brutality”.
She said: “Beforehand, all I had experienced with the police was them leaving me alone. I’d never been arrested before.
“I didn’t witness all of that stuff as I’m white and from a certain class. It must be so frustrating for people who’ve been telling white people for years that it’s is going on.”
When asked for a response, the Met directed LondonWorld to the force’s statement on Baroness Louise Casey’s appointment to lead a review of the Met’s culture and standards.
A spokesperson described it part of a range of measures to restore trust, led by Cressida Dick, including urgently examining all current sexual and domestic abuse allegation claims.
On March 13, 2021, hundreds gathered on Clapham Common, to pay tribute to Everard, whose death at the hands of Couzens marked a turning point for women trusting the police.
For Ms Stevenson, it saw her shoot to fame, as her photo sparked calls for change.
“It affected me massively - my whole life turned upside down that night,” she said.
Describing herself as previously “indifferent to politics,” she said: “I saw that one person can change things. People have messaged me saying they’ve become activists because of me.”
Outlining the changes she believes need to happen, she said: “I think the issues are coming from a lack of accountability and a lack of admittance of fault, especially from Cressida Dick.
“If they just were to hold their hands up and say this is a problem that would be a huge step.
“A lot of people, including Priti Patel, keep saying they want to hire more women officers and these tactics are not going to work at all.
“You can hire as many women as you like but when you’ve got systemic issues the women working amongst the men - with laddish culture, banter and sexism - end up having to join in.
“They have to become slightly misogynistic themselves to fit in, or they are outcast and segregated from the group.”
Her comments echo warnings from other senior female police officers, who said they fear reporting male colleagues as they worry they will be abandoned if they need help on duty.
Ms Dick said: “The appointment of Baroness Casey to lead the independent review into our culture and standards is an important step.
“I know Louise will ask the difficult questions needed for this thorough review. This will build a stronger Met, ensure lasting improvement of public confidence in us.”
Ms Stevenson also believes officers should be given misogyny training after sexist comments on WhatsApp came to light, including the use of the term “dead birds”.
“If these things are not dealt with immediately and people are not disciplined immediately, it’s going to carry on,” she reasoned.
“Wayne Couzens who indecently exposed himself- if he was not allowed to carry on with his job, who knows if that would have even happened to Sarah.
“Why was he not suspended? It doesn’t make any sense. People need to be held accountable.”
Ms Dick said: “We recognise the grave levels of public concern following the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard and other deeply troubling incidents and allegations.
“The Met has huge numbers of wonderfully professional officers and staff but I also recognise the behaviour of too many is of serious concern.”
Ms Stevenson also stressed that reform needs to be collaborative.
“My main message is to listen to activists,” she said.
“Every single activist friend I have has written letters to Priti Patel and Cressida Dick. When ex-police officers are trying to change things, they need to be listened to.
“They’re dealing with the police on a daily basis. Priti Patel doesn’t see what’s going on on the streets.
“Trust isn’t going to be built if you’re not listening to civilians who encounter them every day.”
Ms Dick added: “I hope the significant urgent actions we are taking will go some way to provide immediate and vital reassurance to Londoners.
“Compassionate, courageous, professional and always acting with integrity. This is the Met I want everyone to know. I ask you to judge us on how we turn our words into action.”
While Baroness Casey said: “Trust is given to the police by public consent. Any acts that undermine that trust must be examined and fundamentally changed.
“We owe it to the victims and families this has affected and the countless decent police officers this has brought into disrepute.”