I’ve had a bit of a knot in my stomach all week because of the stories in the UK news about the vigils for the murdered woman, Sarah Everard.
There was so much anger and resentment thrown up in the public domain from both the women at the main vigil in Clapham Common and the police at the event, that I’m not going to repeat them again here.
One Facebook post defending the police said that some of the women who were shouting obscenities were not there for Sarah’s family. They probably weren’t. They were there for themselves, as women, as any one of them could have been Sarah Everard.
I don’t condone violence or obscenities thrown about to incite anger. But I also think there should be a space to vent anger and frustration when something like this has happened, even during lockdown if it was fully outside and if people generally kept their distance and wore masks1. Especially when the murderer was allegedly a serving member of the Metropolitan Police Force.
If I look at the statistics of UK murders2, three times as many men are likely to be killed than women so you might ask why the uproar.
Because women don’t need to just worry about being killed. The number of deaths is relatively quite low for the population (roughly 11 in every million people). But the number of recorded rapes is over 58,000 (over 850 in every million people)3 – that number doesn’t include the unreported rapes and the assaults.
Following the attacks by Peter Sutcliffe (the Yorkshire Ripper) in the 70s, many women took part in Reclaim the Night marches, including my Anne who was a student there and lived round the corner from The Gaiety, where one of his victims was picked up. Leeds Police did not really put a huge deal of weight into investigating his crimes until “innocent young girls” and not just sex workers were being killed. Their ‘advice’ to women was to stay indoors after dark.
I feel safer when I see police on the streets. I know there have been huge improvements since the 70s, in methods of policing and attempts of outreach towards different communities. I know, given the stats of things like Stop and Search, that there is plenty more to do.
I hope that there is more education in schools around pornography given that it is so prevalent. I hope that more men call out other men for words and actions that are not okay4. I know that all the close men in my life would.
I would like to feel safe enough to run in total isolation in the night time but I don’t yet.