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Rethinking women’s public safety as care in urban spaces of hyperunsafety

Thursday 4 July 2024, 3 pm - 4:30 pm

In this lecture Professor Rachel Pain will provide a talk on "Rethinking women’s public safety as care in urban spaces of hyperunsafety"


The safety of women and girls in public spaces has re-emerged as a prominent issue for the media, politics and planning in the UK. Since the earliest geographical research, very little has changed: levels of fear remain high and are justified by patterns of violence and harassment, with hotspots in certain urban areas. This paper focuses on public parks as spaces of urban hyperunsafety. We argue that the representation of hyperunsafety in public and policy discourses often runs counter to workable ways of improving it: it is viewed as atomised, as localised, as an immaterial feeling, and is mobilised divisively. Our research in North East England takes an intersectional approach, finding high rates of harassment, hate crime and other forms of violence in parks among certain groups of women and men. Structural violence underpins these experiences, both in the wider UK context of austerity, and in diminishing confidence in the state and police, who are seen as exacerbating unsafety by some women and minoritized people. Challenging predominant criminal justice, technical and environmental approaches, which we argue naturalise unsafety and show little sustained success in reducing violence, we explore our respondents’ responses to the question of what measures would make them safe. We argue that reframing public safety in terms of care opens the way to strategies most likely to achieve safety for everyone, and consider strategies for collective responsibility for creating emancipatory and safe public spaces.

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About Rachel Pain

Rachel Pain is Dean of Social Justice and Professor of Human Geography at Newcastle University in the UK. Her research focuses on spaces of violence, fear and trauma, with gender-based violence a particular interest from intimate to international scales. Her work is informed by feminist and participatory theory and practice. She collaborates on this research with public and voluntary sector organisations, as well as with survivor groups.

Thursday 4 July 2024, 3 pm - 4:30 pm
Maria Montessori building, MM 04.610
Contact information

sonja.marzi [at] ru.nl (sonja[dot]marzi[at]ru[dot]nl)