Image Credit: Sarah Everard Source_ Daily Post USA
She did everything “right.” She wore bright clothing and sensible shoes. She walked on heavily populated and well-lit roads. She called her boyfriend while she walked. At around 9 p.m. on March 3, Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, left a friend’s house in Clapman Junction, South London to walk home. One week later, her remains were discovered in a large builder’s bag in Hoad’s Wood, Kent, more than fifty miles from where she was last seen.
Nearly two weeks after her kidnapping and murder, Metropolitan Police officer, Wayne Couzens, was charged for Everard’s murder. His plea hearing is set for July 2021, and his trial will follow up in October. Though his fate remains unclear, the Metropolitan Police report to be ‘utterly appalled by the dreadful news,’ according to Police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick. However, women are less than satisfied by this response from the Metropolitan Police Force and the stringent misogynistic conversations that followed, which included a proposed policing bill that would impose significant restrictions on protest, and grant more power to the police. Everard’s death, along with the violent police response at the “Reclaiming the Streets” vigil in her honor, has convinced many British women that the police are an active threat to their safety.
Recent polls throughout London have highlighted a very concerning statistic: more than 70% of respondents have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public. Even more alarming is that 97% of respondents between the ages of 18-24 have experienced such harassment. Taking into account these colossal numbers, it becomes all the more concerning that only 4% of these women had actually reported their experiences, and that 45% thought that reporting would not change anything.
The movement that this tragedy sparked has expanded far beyond London and has inspired a worldwide outpouring on social media of women’s experiences of sexual assault and harassment, as well as their fears and anger. They have even shared ways men can make women more comfortable on the streets. The tags #reclaimthestreets, #notallmenbutenough, #saraheverard, and #shewasjustwalkinghome have blown up on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as people continue to spread awareness about Everard’s story and how more tragedies like this can be prevented down the road.
Women are shining a light upon, and breaking down, the double standard that they have long had to grapple with: women are expected to adapt their behavior based on personal risks and are expected to carry pepper spray or hold their keys between their fingers, just in case. These unreasonable expectations fuel the victim-blaming culture and detract the focus from the perpetrators. As Andrea Simon, director of End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), so wisely put it, “We rarely hear about what drives perpetrators to harm women and what needs to be put in place to stop this behavior.”