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Image / Agenda / Breaking Stories

The conversation around Sarah Everard’s disappearance is familiar, frustrating and frightening


by Dominique McMullan
11th Mar 2021
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Every woman you know has walked home scared. We are tired of feeling unsafe, objectified and dehumanised. 

It feels almost like a trope to recount how every woman holds her keys in her fist to protect herself when walking home alone. To have to explain how every woman makes sure to take only well lit routes. To describe how every woman says to a friend – loudly – “I’m just getting into a taxi, I’ll call you when I’m home.” To have to justify why every woman has loitered in front of a shop window. To have to explain the fear that every woman – every woman – has felt deep in their gut, at some point in their lives. 

That fear rarely becomes a reality. Thank god. But for Sarah Everard, today it seems that that is not the case. 

Every woman, when they read her story, will know that it could have been them, and will hold their keys a little bit tighter. 

On March 3, Sarah left her friends home in London at 9pm. The walk should have taken 50 minutes, but she has yet to return home.

Yesterday the Metropolitan police commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, announced that police had discovered human remains in woodland in Kent. PC Wayne Couzens, a member of the elite parliamentary and diplomatic protection command, was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping, alongside a woman in her 30s. Both remain in custody. 

In a statement Cressida Dick said Sarah’s disappearance was “every family’s worst nightmare”, while the arrest of a serving officer had sent “shockwaves and anger through the public and through the Met”.

Every woman, when they read her story, will know that it could have been them, and will hold their keys a little bit tighter. 

Sarah’s story, and the conversation around it, feels too familiar, frustrating and frightening. 

Sarah Everard didn’t make a “poor decision” to walk home alone at 9pm that night, as some social media users might have us believe.

As many women have written before me, women are not responsible, no matter the circumstances – for being attacked. Ever. Not if they walk home alone, not if they’re drunk, not if they’re wearing a short skirt. Not if they are nude and unable to stand. Not if they are wearing a burka. Not if they are covered in piercings. Not if they tell you, they think you’re a dickhead. 

For the people in the back – WOMEN ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ACTIONS OF MEN. People are not responsible for the actions of other people. 

Consider this. Women in the area where Sarah Everard went missing have been advised not to “go out alone” while the investigation is ongoing. But how about we ask men not to go out instead? Perhaps we would see more done about street safety if it were men losing their freedoms, not women.

For the people in the back – WOMEN ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ACTIONS OF MEN.

#NotAllMen is trending on Twitter. Not all men are murderers. But imagine if all men began talking to each other about these issues. Imagine if the energy that was put into defensiveness, was put into a solution. 

Every woman you know has walked home scared. Every single one. We accept this all too readily. But it’s not only about being attacked. This is also about being shouted at, being touched, being groped, having a disgusting slur murmured at you as you are passed in broad daylight. 

This is about feeling unsafe, feeling objectified and feeling dehumanised. 

We don’t care if he’s “handsy after a few drinks, but not a bad lad”. We don’t care if he “has a daughter”. We don’t care if he “means well”. 

That is where it starts.

Violence against women is not unusual. It is not rare. It is a theme.

We are not deserving of this. 

Please, for our daughters, let this be where it ends.