I wanted to write about Sarah Everard. I wanted to produce something that was hard-hitting, impactful and empowering about womanhood; the strength and the fear that occupies so much of our existence. There should be outrange that a young woman was snatched off the street and cruelly denied her own future, there should be inspiration to change this world as we know it. But instead, I’m just tired. We all are.
Just two days after International Women’s Day 2021, a Met Police officer was arrested under suspicion of murdering of Sarah Everard, the 33 year old woman that went missing in the area around Clapham Common. A crushing blow for women that are all too family with being unable to trust the men in our lives that were meant to be one of the good ones, the men that whose job it was to keep us safe. Within a matter of days, the gut-wenching news that human remains had been found had a whole generation of women fighting back tears. In the same week, a YouGov survey confirmed that 97% of women aged 18-24 have been sexually harassed and Piers Morgan dismissed Meghan Markle's admission of suicidal thoughts. I can’t remember a week in recent years that has made me feel so afraid to be a woman in Britain.
I feel lost for words, because it feels like we’ve said it all before, and yet the long list of women in the UK that disappear on their very own doorsteps never ceases to end. Sarah Everard, Grace Millane, Milly Dowler, Alice Gross, Holly Wells and Jesica Chapman. Each nightmare a stark reminder that the women and girls we love so much are in danger in their very own towns, regardless of what they do. Women are murdered on their walks home, killed on their way to the shops and strangled to death on dates. That is the reality for woman in Britain.
"Hundreds, if not thousands of women this week have shared their collective experiences of genuine, inexplicable terror."
It’s hard to be eloquent when you’re grieving a life that could so easily could have been your own. Because we’ve all been there. Hundreds, if not thousands of women this week have shared their collective experiences of genuine, inexplicable terror. We’ve all had moments of opting for taxis home after evenings out, even if our homes are just around the corner, just to avoid walking alone in the dark. We’ve clutched keys between our knuckles, crossed the road when men walk a little too close and flicked through our contacts when choosing who to call that can keep track of your whereabouts in those few minutes, which always feel longer, when you’re afraid for your life.
And these are not rare occurrences, they’re daily experiences.
The inexpressible grief that has come with the news of Sarah Everard has left women across the country paralysed, because we know that it could have been one of us. One of our sisters, one of our friends. Sarah did everything right, took every precaution that we are all well-trained in. And yet, that still couldn’t save her. This is has made us scared and nervous, checking our locked doors once more than usual and remembering all the times when we too felt afraid. We’re angry at the acts of evil against women that are still taking place in the UK in 2021, angry that #NotAllMen was trending when the truth of the matter is that all women have felt terrified what some men might be capable of doing. By the way, yes, we are well aware that the vast majority of the men in are lives are ones we trust, but when 89% of women that have been murdered were killed by someone they knew, it’s hard rationalise with the Not All Men campaign.
We’re frustrated that whilst women across the country are dragging themselves through harrowing and triggering conversations, male politicians, male celebrities and even our own male friends have watched in silence as we share our pain with the world. And this isn’t just a women’s issue. Although almost all women have experienced sexual assault, we continued to be dismissed and made to feel guilty when the men around us are offended by the generalisation of male perpetrators.
"We need to know that you have our backs, that you’re ready and willing to challenge the actions of your mates and of any man that is visibly making a woman uncomfortable."
To the men in our lives, we need your voices and your help in making a safer world for us and everyone else that are vulnerable to the violence committed by men. Most of all, we need your support. We need to know that you have our backs, that you’re ready and willing to challenge the actions of your mates and of any man that is visibly making a woman uncomfortable. What might be a bit of an awkward conversation between friends may well save our lives one day, because, as has become abundantly clear this week, tackling assault on women has once again become a matter of life or death.
Ultimately, above all else, we’re tired. Grief is draining, as is the feeling of dwindling hope that these murders might never happen again. We’re tired of being told we’re the problem and that we should have been more careful. We’re tired of saying goodbye to women who deserved better.