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Image / Agenda / Image Writes

Monsters among us: Silence is complicity and other realities in the wake of Sarah Everard’s death


by Lauren Heskin
16th Mar 2021
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Focusing on exceptional circumstances around Sarah Everard's death only detract from the universal reality of male violence against women.

The body of Sarah Everard was identified by her dental records.

This is the horrifying fact that my mind keeps idly returning to this week. Every time I take a sip of tea or close my eyes to feel the sun on my face or lean into the dog for a cuddle, it flashes across my brain like a siren.

I think the reason this fact haunts me is because there’s nothing I would have done differently. She called a friend, she wore runners, she wasn’t out late.

This is not a new thought either. It’s something many of us considered during the highly publicised trial of two rugby players in Belfast in 2018 for rape. The victim said she clearly stated her lack of consent, she told someone immediately after the incident, she submitted to a forensic medical exam the following day, she went to the police.

There is nothing that I would have done differently.

Sarah Everard left her friend’s house at 9pm on March 2. She walked through the leafy London streets towards her home. She phoned her boyfriend on the walk for company and comfort, chatting to him for about 15  minutes. She wore bright, noticeable clothing and runners. She probably gripped her keys tightly in her pocket as she passed through darker streets.

There is nothing that I would have done differently.

After Sarah’s body was found in Kent earlier this week, London’s police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said it was rare for a woman to be kidnapped in public by a total stranger. And she is right, it is very unusual for a woman to be abducted by a stranger. But what she didn’t mention is that women are far more likely to be abused, sexually assaulted and murdered by someone they know. 

97% of women aged between 18-24 in the UK have faced sexual harassment according to recent YouGov survey. 1 in 4 women in Ireland have been victims of domestic violence by a current or former partner. One in five women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. 67% of women killed in Ireland are killed by a partner or family member. And all of these statistics increase hugely for women who are part of a minority.

We may not be regularly disappearing from the streets of suburban south London but we are being attacked, abused and murdered in our own homes.

The reality is there is nothing left for us to do. We’re already doing all that we can. We need more. More services, more support, more protection. 

FKA Twigs spoke out recently about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, Shia LaBoeuf. She only found the strength to extricate herself from the relationship when he threw her up against a car and choked her, and bystanders watched and did nothing. She realised that she was alone. She called a free domestic abuse line and began to come to terms with the abusive and controlling relationship she had found herself in.

Just as last summer we were all forced to reckon with our own internalised racism and misogyny. We learned that inaction is really just a defence of the status quo and that what matters is not the intention, but the impact.

These are lessons we can carry over in the wake of Sarah Everard’s death. How can we as a community make women feel safer? Well for starters, we should stop demanding even more of women. Because as women, there’s not much more we can do, aside from speaking about our experiences to those who might be blind to it – to brothers and sons and partners.

We need help, we are exhausted. We’re bearing the brunt of the economic and childcare crisis of this pandemic, while also seeing domestic violence skyrocket. We can’t decipher if the footsteps behind us are ominous or someone merely putting out the bins.

And so instead we live in constant fear, which is probably the most exhausting thing of all.