Walking home alone is one of the scariest things a woman could do. No one knows if predators may be lurking in the shadows. Armed with keys, pepper spray, knives and tasers, women try everything in their power to make it to their destination safe and secure.
Even after the rise in the #metoo movement, attacks against women are still on the rise. Violence against women is recognized by the United Nations as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
Sarah Everard was 33 years old when she was kidnapped and killed in London while walking home from a friend’s house in early March. She did everything women are trained to do: walk on a well-lit street, wore bright clothing and shoes she could run in, and even talked to her boyfriend on the phone. The call was cut short.
Everard went missing March 3 from South London and was found March 13 in a large field in Kent, United Kingdom. Many aspects of the case are still unclear to investigators since she was found in a large bag. Her cause of death has not been released to the public, as well as information about possible sexual assault.
Her body was identified with dental records, which is a sign that her body was unrecognizable or severely harmed.
Wayne Couzens, a Metropolitan police officer in London, was accused and arrested March 12 with Everard’s kidnapping and murder. With a job such as a police officer, wasn’t Couzens supposed to serve and protect? Why did he murder an innocent woman?
His motive is still unclear.
The release of Everard’s case to the public has sparked outrage not only in London, but around the world as well. The continued violence against women has led to protests to call for action to protect women in public spaces.
Since Everard’s disappearance, police in the area where she went missing visited the homes of local women to stay inside to ensure their safety. The women of South London became enraged and took to the streets.
On March 13, a vigil for Everard was held to mourn and protest her tragic death, but the Metropolitan police force tried to end the gathering, due to social gathering restrictions in London. Police grabbed women who were in attendance to disperse the crowd, but in turn, made the protestors angrier. This proved their point, the patriarchy is to blame.
“Hey, mister, get your hands off my sister!” the crowd chanted. “Arrest your own! Police, go home!”
The police attacks from the vigil sparked the new movement called “Reclaim These Streets,” which has been seen as a second wave of the “Reclaim the Night” march after the wake of the Yorkshire Ripper in the 1970s. The movement is currently protesting against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which aims to limit the amount of power the people will have in public protest.
If the bill passes, the local police departments will be able to set a noise limit, as well as set start and finish times for protests. These rules even apply to one individual protesting. This could impose on the UK’s Human Rights Act, which protects the freedom of speech.
The bill not only harms free speech in the UK, but it could also inspire legislation in the United States to limit protests for movements, such as Black Lives Matter, which opposed hate crimes and police brutality.
The outrage over Everard’s case did cause some backlash due to her race. Everard was a white woman, while the deaths of women of color go unnoticed or underreported. The death of Blessing Olusegun, a London student and Black woman, was found dead on an East Sussex, UK beach in Sept. 2020. Olusegun’s case has only been in the spotlight because of Everard.
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Inspector, Pippa Nicklin, issued a statement regarding an update on Olusegun’s case, in the wake of the Everard murder.
“Although there continues to be no evidence of a crime, we are still carefully and fully examining all the circumstances leading up to Blessing’s death, from her arrival in Bexhill, to her leaving the house where she was working and walking to the beach,” Nicklin said. “It has been reported that we have not properly investigated Blessing’s death because of her ethnicity and we strongly refute these claims.”
Jenny Jones, a British politician, proposed a curfew for men after 6 p.m. for women to safely roam the streets.
“I would argue that at the next opportunity for a bill that is appropriate, I might actually put in an amendment to create a curfew for men on the streets after 6 p.m., which I feel will make women much safer, and discrimination of all kinds would be lessened,” Jones said.
Jones’ proposal did not pass, as her idea was viewed as a hysterical solution from the men in British politics. What actions need to be taken for women to finally feel safe?
Everard’s murder is the awakening of social change for women’s safety. The US should watch the case unfold in London and take action. Violence against women does not just occur in one city; it happens all around the world.