Trigger Warning: This article contains heavy and serious themes surrounding male violence against women, abuse and sexual harassment. There will also be some strong language, so please read with caution.
Whether in broad daylight or underneath the moon, I have always felt the fear that comes with walking alone.
You’re at a friend’s house but you need to walk home, so you say you’ll text when you get back safe or call on your way if that makes the journey easier. You’ll fasten up your jacket to cover your body, tuck your hair behind and keep your head firmly down. You’ll slip your hand into your pocket and place each key in between your fingers like some Wolverine ready to pounce back.
You contemplate getting an Uber but you remember you can’t trust the driver not to force himself on you. So instead, you’ll tell yourself before you leave that it’s only a short journey and that you will be fine but as soon as you set off, your heart pounds with panic. Your mind races with all the possible threats that could face you. That man behind you is getting closer. They’re following you; they’re stalking you and so you do your best to change route. You’ll cross that pavement and for a moment feel relieved but that was a close call, wasn’t it?
You think that these actions and feelings are silly. That person probably meant no harm, they were just walking too. But in this cruel world where 97% of women, including myself, have faced some level of sexual harassment – both day and night – how am I meant to know, that man wouldn’t do the same?
Sarah Everard was one such woman who’s fears, unfortunately, came true.
On the 3rd of March in Brixton, South London, Everard was reported missing after walking home from a friend’s house. It was only a week later that Metropolitan Police confirmed to have found a body near Ashford. Not only this but one of their own former officer’s, Wayne Couzens, was charged on suspicion of Everard’s kidnap and murder. Couzens had already been suspended and under investigation after exposing himself in front of female staff at a McDonald’s three days prior to Everard’s disappearance.
Following his arrest, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) will be under further investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) to understand if they “responded appropriately” to Couzens allegations and whether more could’ve been done to prevent this tragic death from happening.
As could be expected, tributes and fundraisers have been carried out, despite the pandemic, in remembrance of Sarah and the millions of women who face this threat on a daily basis. Sarah Everard could have quite easily been any one of us – your mum, your sister, your friends, and girlfriends. Sarah took all the precautions any woman would’ve done; she said she’d text when she got home, she called her boyfriend on her journey, she wore “sensible” clothes and stuck to a path she knew was well-lit and safe – but that still wasn’t enough.
A movement known as ‘Reclaim These Streets’ has currently raised over £456,033 for women’s charities and sparked up protests across the UK. Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have been flooded with posts from women everywhere sharing their own similar experiences and using their platforms to address the men in their life to listen. To say that we shouldn’t victim-blame women who aren’t responsible for their own attacks. These experiences can range from being catcalled at a young age to keeping an eye on your drink at a bar.
“If you put a man in a room full of women, he is in heaven. And if you put a woman in a room full of men, she is terrified.”
A vigil was recently held at Clapham Common for “reclaiming our public spaces and coming together to feel a level of solidarity”. However, the vigil was met with police force who ‘physically restrained’ women participating in the peaceful, candle-lit service. Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has even called for further investigation on the Met Police’s handling of the vigil and whether their actions were necessary. The police’s handling has also been called ‘unacceptable’ by London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, who had been urging police to work with the organisers to hold a safe event, saying:
‘I received assurances from the Metropolitan Police last week that the vigil would be policed sensitively. In my view, this was not the case’.
Every year on International Women’s Day, Labour MP, Jess Phillips, runs through a list of all the women who were killed in the last 12 months where a man was the ‘main perpetrator’. This year, Phillips read out 118 names on the day which Sarah’s body was found, saying:
‘Dead women is a thing we’ve all just accepted as part of our daily lives. Killed women are not vanishingly rare. Killed women are common.’
Another debate was raised in Parliament with regards to a 6pm curfew for men; though Baroness Jenny Jones said she wasn’t ‘entirely serious’ and only said this because ‘when the police victim-blame by asking women to stay home, we don’t react. We just think it’s normal’.
The response from men on this situation has been varied. Some men have sympathised with their female friends; acknowledging the fact that their presence to a woman at night might come across intimidating and will therefore cross the street or take a different direction if it makes her more comfortable. Many of these men have even been asking questions about what they can do to make a woman feel safer and reduce the level of anxiety she feels when she is out alone.
Other men, however, have not been so kind. When popular media outlet, LadBible, posted in solidarity about these recent events, the comments were flooded with men who felt they were being attacked and were outraged at how women were accusing their good character. In light of this type of response, a new hashtag ‘Not All Men’ has risen to diminish the experiences of women by saying not every man is a predator. But to a woman, how are you to distinguish who is good and who is bad? Especially late at night.
A popular clip from Daniel Sloss’ 2019 show ‘X’ has resurfaced after the comedian’s monologue addresses the need for men to stop being complicit when they see another man acting badly towards a woman. He goes into depth about how he missed and ignored all the signs that his friend was a rapist, until it was too late. Sloss, therefore, encourages men to get involved in calling out bad behaviour when they see it.
‘Deep down, I know most men are good but when 1 in 10 men are shit and the other 9 do nothing, they might as well not fucking be there’
It’s evident to see that this tragic event has sparked outrage amongst many across the country but if we are to ever feel, even slightly more comfortable walking the streets, we must teach our children and sons how to respect women.
Written, edited and header image by Sophie Alexander – Entertainment Editor