CUMNOCK’S MSP has said young men and boys must be educated on healthy relationships in a bid to end violence against women.

Messages of reassurance regarding the safety of women in East Ayrshire were issued last week following the high profile kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by an off duty Met police officer.

Wayne Couzens was handed a whole life-sentence for the despicable crimes committed against the 33-year-old marketing executive, who was walking home when she was targeted.

The case has highlighted the ongoing threat to the safety of women and girls across the country. Recent figures also show that in 2019/2020, police recorded 1,542 incidents of domestic abuse in East Ayrshire, up on the last figure of 1,468.

Cumnock Chronicle: Sarah Everard.Sarah Everard.

Elena Whitham, MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, said women’s safety was “still top of the agenda” but that it is vital that council strategies to prevent violence against women are “not just a talking shop”.

The MSP, herself a victim of rape while a student in Canada, said: “We know patriarchy is the way Western cultures predominantly operate.

“Until we can tackle the underlying root causes of women’s inequality then we’re going to keep contributing to sticking plasters over it.

“We need to ensure that Women’s Aid groups and other organisations are supported in going into schools to teach young people about healthy relationships.

“East Ayrshire’s prevention plan doesn’t just tackle misogynistic abuse but the entire culture of bullying behaviour. An essential part of it is talking to adolescents about what’s acceptable and what’s not.

“There’s a huge pressure on young people nowadays with the fact that they’re constantly plugged into social media and the internet, with access to pornography.

“We need to educate young boys and men about these things, how they aren’t real, how relationships work and how not to place expectations on them. Guys are also under pressure to live up to false gender stereotypes.”

Cumnock Chronicle: A woman leaves flowers at the bandstand on Clapham Common.A woman leaves flowers at the bandstand on Clapham Common.

Following Sarah’s murder, Ms Whitham said: “When it became known that the murderer arrested her... under false Covid pretences and with his handcuffs, I think that in itself has created a situation whereby lots of us are questioning, how do we trust the police?

“Locally we need to get the message out that the police are still there to protect us.”

Inspector Julie McLeish, at Cumnock Police Station, said: “Women should never be scared or reluctant to report any crime to us and can be assured that we will listen, support and carry out a robust and impartial investigation.

“It is understandable members of the public are now rightly concerned about verifying an officer’s identity and I would like to reassure anyone who has concerns that police always carry photographic identification and will be happy to provide reassurance.”

The Rape Crisis Scotland helpline is free to call on 08088 01 03 02 every day, 6pm to midnight.