I GREW up in the Ripper years, in a city where women were murdered. I remember the headlines and TV news reports, and the uneasy feeling that he could be among us. And I remember the jokes about violence against women, and the inference that some probably deserved it more than others.

Even now, when women are killed, someone will trot out something trite along the lines of ‘it’s all very tragic but if they will go putting themselves at risk late at night...’ But sometimes taking a risk is unavoidable, for all kinds of reasons. And that doesn’t make us irresponsible, or fair game.

Would I have ‘deserved it’, as a young woman, out alone late evenings when I was working? I couldn’t afford a car when I started out as a young reporter, so I took two buses to work and two home. Once or twice a week I was sent to cover council and community group meetings in the evenings and afterwards I’d wait for a bus, sometimes for an hour, standing alone on dark, quiet streets, miles from home. This was the early Nineties, so no mobile phones. When a bus finally came, often past 10pm, and I reached town, I then had to walk across the city centre to another bus stop, taking a deep breath, avoiding eye contact and trying to ignore the catcalling when I passed men. I was 22, alone at night, with nothing to protect myself other than a rape alarm in my bag.

Looking back, I can’t believe I did it. Was I putting myself at risk? Probably. But I had little choice. And although I’d grown used to it since the age of about 12, I resented those feelings women know too well; the dread, fear and plain irritation of walking towards men - not just in in the city at night, but passing a building site in the middle of the day, pulling up at traffic lights or cutting through a subway instead of going the long way round.

We have a right to be angry about violence and threats against women - even in lockdown, when cases have risen. The Sarah Everard vigil on Clapham Common was an outpouring of sorrow and anger, at a time when a virtual candle flickering online just isn’t enough. I don’t care for public grieving or floral tributes, all too often it’s mawkish exhibitionism turned on for social media, but in this case you could feel the strength of unity of people who are collectively sick of years and years of violence, intimidation, threats and banter that leaves women vulnerable on streets and in cities, parks, woodlands, subways, pubs, clubs and at home.

The Government says there’s “more to do” in improving women’s safety, and has announced steps such as doubling the Safer Streets fund, rolling out undercover police officers seeking out predatory offenders in clubs and bars, and increasing uniformed patrols at closing time. Government adviser Nimco Ali described the ongoing political debate on violence against women as an opportunity to ensure that voices of the vigils are at the heart of new legislation.

I hope it makes a difference, but I’m not optimistic. When my niece was working late shifts in Leeds I’d often pick her up when she got off the train so she didn’t have to then walk down a lonely street to get a bus home. Invariably, her short walk from work to the train station, and her train journey, had involved some unwanted male attention. She batted if off with eye-rolling irritation, but as we drove past the lonely bus stop I was relieved she was safe, chattering away in my car. She's the same age as I was waiting at lonely bus stops 30 years ago. Women have been reclaiming the streets for as long as I can recall, but neither are safe.