Empowered together

Kent’s first-ever Reclaim the Night walk took place here in Tunbridge Wells last year. Ahead of it happening again next month, one its co-founders, local writer Lauren Brook, tells SO magazine about the importance of campaigning for safer streets in Tunbridge Wells and beyond…


When I experienced stalking and harassment as I walked through a busy Tunbridge Wells town centre in broad daylight four years ago, I had no idea that it would lead me to campaign for the safety of women, girls and marginalised people to be prioritised by those who make decisions for our Borough.

I was 25 and on my lunch break when I was intimidated, harassed and followed by a man I didn’t know. Five years before that, at 19, a man in a club thought that it was acceptable to touch me inappropriately and without my consent; luckily, my friend noticed and grabbed my arm so I could get away. Just one year ago, I witnessed a man blatantly harassing young women on their way to school or work at 7.30 in the morning. Feeling the hairs on my arm stand up, heart hammering in my chest, I stepped in and pretended to know one of the girls involved so that I could try and protect her from this man’s unwanted attention, just like my friend had done for me.

All of these experiences were frightening and disconcerting, forcing me to question how safe I actually felt walking alone during the day, let alone at night. What if I hadn’t been able to call my boyfriend so that a man who had made it his mission to pursue me would leave me alone? What if I hadn’t had a friend with me in that dark club? What if I hadn’t thought anything of a seemingly innocent interaction between a predatory man and a young woman who was just trying to walk to school?

What I have witnessed is far from unique – these are experiences that I have heard a thousand times over from other women, seen depicted on television or in news reports, found buried on the back pages of newspapers. Experiences of intimidation, harassment and sexual assault are so commonplace that we have learned to tune them out, desensitise ourselves, second guess the credibility of those who speak up.

When I met Jayne Sharratt, Editor of Rusthall and Langton Life magazines and Tunbridge Wells Borough Councillor for Rusthall, our shared frustration over not being able to walk freely in our Borough without fear of harassment or attack was the catalyst for local action. We organised Kent’s first-ever Reclaim The Night walk in November 2022 to campaign for safer streets, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“I felt incredibly angry about the fact that as a woman without access to a car, I didn’t feel safe enough to walk on my own from our village to the town centre in Tunbridge Wells after dark,” Jayne tells me. “I had this idea for a walk to campaign for our safety in public spaces and wanted it to be after the clocks went back in the winter months, so I chose November 25 to coincide with the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls. I knew I couldn’t do it alone and having seen Lauren speaking out on this issue had a hunch she could be the perfect collaborator – and I was right.”

Now we are a fully-fledged community organisation with a mission to facilitate open, honest and non-judgemental conversations about the issues that affect women, girls and marginalised people, from the closure of children’s centres to local bus cuts and everything in between. We don’t exclude anyone – people of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and genders are welcome to contribute to our work, whatever that looks like for them.

Jayne and I believe strongly that discussions around the safety of women, girls and marginalised people should always include men – we can only move forward and make change when the conversation is inclusive, non-judgemental and welcoming. We’ve come up with the slogan Empowered Together, Stronger Alone to promote these ideas.


Follow Reclaim the Night on Instagram and Facebook @reclaimthenighttw for all the latest, or email: reclaimthenightrusthall@gmail.com

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter