The murder of Sarah Everard has been a deeply triggering event both personally and collectively for women in the UK and beyond.
On March 3, Sarah was walking home from a friend’s house in Clapham, when Wayne Couzens, an off-duty police officer, kidnapped and murdered her.
On March 10, breaking headlines revealed that the 33-year-old’s remains had been found in a woodland in Kent. Since then, the tragedy of Sarah’s story has reverberated across the nation, reinforcing calls to end violence against women.
Just two days before news of Sarah’s murder, International Women’s Day marked a global celebration of women’s power and resistance to all forms of violence against women.
Violence against women is a prevalent issue around the world, and the UK is no exception. While Sarah Everard’s murder has shocked the nation, a report in 2020 showed that one woman is murdered by a man every three days in the UK. What was less common about Sarah’s case, however, was that a stranger attacked her.
According to UN data, out of the six women killed every hour by men across the globe, most perpetrators are their partners, ex-partners or family members.
But violence against women does not always end in murder. Other forms of violence, such as domestic abuse and sexual assault, are far more widespread.
In the UK, reports show that just under one in three women have experienced domestic abuse in their lifetime and one in four women have survived rape or sexual assault. These are grim numbers sorely felt by millions of women like me, who are fortunate enough to have survived our attacks but still impacted for the rest of our lives by such severe assaults on our rights to live freely and safely.
Our Culture and Justice System Fail to Protect Women’s Safety
Sarah Everard’s murder has also triggered huge backlash against the UK’s police force and the brutality they inflict on innocent people. On March 13, hundreds gathered at Clapham Common to mourn Sarah’s death. Yet their attempts to collectively grieve were met with forceful resistance by the police, who claim their use of violence was justified due to Coronavirus.
With drastic numbers of women continuing to lose their lives to male violence and only 1.7% of rapes reported to police resulting in prosecution, it is clear the police system is either unable or unwilling to protect women from the pervasive threats we face in our homes, streets, schools and cities.
Like so many other women, Sarah Everard did not want to fall on the unfortunate side of prevailing gender statistics and become a highly politicised story that led to debates over whether Not All Men or Too Many Men assault, rape or murder women.
It is because of our cultural attitudes towards masculinity and femininity, and the lack of protection and justice our systems provide, that Too Many Women are paying the price.