A university football team launched a chaperone service to help women worried about walking home alone in the wake of Sarah Everard‘s murder.
Cardiff University’s football team set up a free text service over the weekend to help female students get home after a night out.
The idea was sparked when student Ben Marrett, 22, heard that his ex-girlfriend, Mia Sawdon, was stalked by a stranger as she walked alone through a park.
The business student said: ‘She texted me the other day about how she was walking through Bute Park in broad daylight and a man tried talking to her and she ran home in broad daylight. She couldn’t even walk through the park.
‘I thought “there’s got to be something I can do about it”.
‘This isn’t right that women in particular can’t walk, in broad daylight, where they’re living.
Cardiff University’s football team offered a free text service to help female students get home after a night out
The idea was sparked when student Ben Marrett, 22, heard that his ex-girlfriend, Mia Sawdon (pictured together), was stalked by a stranger as she walked through a park on her own
‘I was thinking at night-time there should be a volunteer group that stand in Bute Park at night-time with high-vis and lights on.’
After checking in with Mia, Ben decided to message his football club’s group chat, asking who would help him with his plans.
Ben later enlisted the help of 20 teammates to act as chaperones to ensure women got home safely.
The business and human resource management student and his friends operated a text service from 9pm on Saturday night to 5am on Sunday morning, where women could request a chaperone.
The group helped 30 students make it home safely throughout the night.
The chaperone service was set up just months after the death of Sarah Everard, who went missing as she attempted to walk through Clapham, London, on her way home from a friend’s house
The text service was set up in response to ‘National Rape Day’, a vile social media hoax that claimed rape would be legal on April 24.
The sick hoax was set up just months after the death of Sarah Everard, who went missing as she attempted to walk through Clapham, London, on her way home from a friend’s house.
She was later found dead. Serving police officer, Wayne Couzens, 48, a serving Metropolitan Police officer at the time, has been charged with Ms Everard’s murder and kidnap.
Ben said: ‘When I heard about this [National Rape Day] hoax, I thought “this is absolutely horrible”. I knew Mia was going to a party on Saturday.
‘I text her saying “I’ll happily walk you there and back anytime”.
‘We were talking to each other saying there’s got to be something we could do.
‘I said ‘since I’m staying in on Saturday, why don’t I get a few of the boys from the football club to help me’.
‘I put a post in the group chat and said ‘gents, on Saturday, I’m going to put a post out to say I’ll be chaperoning girls and walking round the streets in my red top, with my student ID on so everyone knows who I am, to make them feel safe, even if this is a hoax.
‘The response from them has been incredible. They were all like “yes, we’ll all be part of it. It’s not right”.
The football players won praise from dozens of female students and were described as ‘angels’, while the mother of one female student ‘cried with happiness’ over their act of kindness.
The society now hopes to inspire more sports societies across other universities to follow suit.
The football players (pictured helping a student home) won praise from dozens of women and were described as ‘angels’, while the mother of one female student ‘cried with happiness’ over their act of kindness
‘Hopefully it’ll encourage other societies and the police and university to do more about it,’ Ben said.
‘It’s not a big commitment to make sure everyone is home safe. I don’t think I’ll go to sleep until I’m confident we’ve got everyone home.’
After posting about his plans on social media, Ben claims he’s received messages of support from female students who claims the service will make them feel safer.
Ben said: ‘I’ve had some really nice messages from girls in Cardiff. What we’re doing isn’t ground-breaking, it’s such a small gesture, but it makes a difference to so many people.
‘It’s worrying that it’s taken this long for something like this to happen. Something big has to happen before there’s a response to it.
After posting about his plans on social media, Ben claims he’s received messages of support from female students who claims the service will make them feel safer
‘Even if it’s a hoax, this is a problem on every night out. Regardless of whether it is “National Rape Day”, we’ll be out there regardless and hopefully start something.’
Mia split up with Ben at the beginning of the month but has praised his selfless decision to give up his Saturday nights for the benefit of his female peers.
Mia, originally from Reading, Berkshire, said: ‘Before I came to Cardiff, I’d seen stuff on social media, but I had a bit of an eye-opener.
‘Quite recently I was walking through Bute Park. This guy came up to me and just started trying to chat to me and looked at me funny, so I ran away quickly and went home.
‘Since then, there has been a couple of times where I’m walking home from shops and guys will follow me. I’ll change direction and they’ll also change direction.
‘It’s not just at night-time when it’s dark, it’s in the daytime. It’s daily that girls are posting stuff on social media saying “be careful, I’ve seen this guy”.
‘Being so far away from home at uni, you forget about these things, but there are times when you think ‘who would be the first person I’d call’. There’s a lot of girls who don’t.
‘I’m so lucky to have that relationship with Ben where I know he’d look out for me, but there’s so many girls who wouldn’t have that.
‘It just makes you feel so much better. It should really be the uni’s responsibility. It shouldn’t have to take students, who are worried about their girlfriends or friends, to act upon it themselves.’
In light of content online referring to National Rape Day hoax, Cardiff University urged anyone ‘concerned about their immediate safety’ to contact the police or university security.
The business and human resource management student and his friends operated a text service from 9pm on Saturday night to 5am on Sunday morning, where women could request a chaperone. The group helped 30 students make it home safely throughout the night
A spokesperson from Cardiff University said: ‘We have been made aware of this deeply disturbing content and understand this is causing distress.
‘This content could also be triggering to anyone who has experienced sexual assault or rape, which is deeply concerning.
‘We want to make it absolutely clear: we are taking these matters seriously.. We have passed this information to colleagues at South Wales Police and University security are also aware.
‘Whilst we have been advised that the origin is a hoax and we want to reassure our student community, we fully appreciate the negative impact on our students’ perceived sense of safety.
‘We take a zero-tolerance approach to violence and abuse, including threats of violence. Anyone who is behaving in this way or supporting behaviour will be subject to disciplinary procedures.
‘We would encourage anyone with information about individuals engaged in any such discussions to come forward with this information.
‘If anyone feels threatened or concerned about their immediate safety, they should contact the police or University security.’