A spate of assaults against women and girls in Epsom in recent weeks has sparked a grassroots response from the female community.

It takes the form of a campaign whose members denounce gender violence and hope to establish a support network for those impacted by the issue.

On October 3, women and men took to the streets to stage a symbolic protest in Epsom Town Centre, Rosebery park and Epsom Town Hall where they denounced gender violence and misogyny in the town.

The protesters held placards that attacked stereotypes about women and sexuality with slogans like “Still Not Asking For It” and “Catcalling Is Your Business”.

They campaigned with Epsom Against Sexual Violence, which was created alongside Epsom Women and Girls Network by Kira Charlton.

Surrey Comet: Campaigners outside Epsom Town Hall. (Kira Charlton)Campaigners outside Epsom Town Hall. (Kira Charlton)

Kira told the Epsom Comet that the campaign grew from her wish to connect with other women and girls:

“There was quite a few sexual assaults happening in Epsom in a short space of time and as a young woman I felt a bit worried, a little bit scared. And I thought: ‘If I’m feeling like this, other women and girls must be feeling like this too’” She said.

“I created a survey and shared it on social media and with my friends and I had a really good response from that. About 150 women and girls who lived and worked in Epsom responded.

“My results confirmed what I was thinking was the same as others in my local area. 97-per cent of girls said they feel not enough is being done to ensure their safety. From that I started out campaign,” Kira added.

Surrey Comet: Epsom Against Sexual Violence. (Kira Charlton)Epsom Against Sexual Violence. (Kira Charlton)

The campaign’s first demonstration in Epsom turned out to be another great success for the blossoming campaigners, not least thanks to the striking placards made in collaboration with local artist Skye Phillips.

“During our first public stand on Saturday we had so many women and young girls come up to us and say thank you, it was quite overwhelming,” Kira described.

An Instagram account (@epsomwomenandgirlsnetwork) was created soon after, and with hundreds of followers and many messages just 24 hours after its inception, the momentum for women’s rights Kira’s campaign is creating in Epsom shows no signs of slowing down.

Indeed, it comes at a moment when new grassroots movements demanding justice for women and denouncing gender violence are erupting all over the world, from the Ni Una Menos campaign in Latin America to the global Me Too movement.

Kira now plans to set up a support network for women and girls in the community impacted by gender violence, and has meanwhile mapped out gender violence ‘hotspots’ like Rosebery Park in Epsom to help warn others who might be at risk.

“Gender violence is increasing every year at the moment. The authorities have a duty of care to raise awareness. As a community we’re not aware of what’s going on, it’s getting swept under the carpet. That needs to be changed for our safety.”