2nd February 2023
It is undeniable that the aftermath of the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard brought nationwide awareness to the ever more prevalent problem of violence against women and girls.
Even now, it is incredibly difficult not to be moved by the outpour of grief and testimonies on social media from women and girls. Yet, the devastating fatality has led to an increase in research carried out by organisations that seek to change the current reality, with the UN women UK, for example, having recently released data showing that 97% of young women aged 18-24 have experienced sexual harassment in some form or other, whether it is being subject to a sexual comment or joke, or a physical act of sexual assault.
But has anything really changed since then?
Since Everard’s abduction and murder hit the news, over 177 women have been killed in circumstances where a man is the primary suspect. It’s highly concerning: the lack of regard that politicians and decision-makers have shown for women’s safety, even almost a year and a half following such uproar. Even with a shift in society’s mentality, open conversations, and apparent money being thrown in the direction of women’s safety, women are still left in a never-ending cycle of a system failing them yet again. I do not think women are any safer now than they were two years ago. Several of the solutions the government have provided have not tackled the problem effectively and this lack of sufficient change in some ways is letting perpetrators believe their behaviour is not wrong due to the lack of punishment, further fuelling this idea of invincibility and leaving women at further risk. Most women living in this day and age often subconsciously check their behaviour, ensuring, for example, to refrain from walking down particular roads, especially at night, sharing their location with those trusted, or keeping their hand over the top of drinks in bar settings.
It is not a quick fix. Events like that of Sarah Everard and the countless others that have come both before and after her do not occur due to a lack of street lights or CCTV cameras. They transpire from overly empowered and invigorated behaviour in an obnoxious fashion towards women, due to the rise of a culture that allows misogyny to go unchecked.
This last year has most definitely brought a more significant focus on men’s violence against women. However there is still a serious rift between the talk of change and the financing and policies needed to implement it. In addition, the other major shift is the rising voice of young women calling for greater change and not just initiating conversations about how women can keep themselves safe, but how we tackle the lack of education and respect that men seem to have for women. This is a crucial moment to turn our focus to what can be done to create significant change for the next generations.
Prioritising education on these issues is an absolute necessity.
By Damini Dattani, student
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