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A letter from the 97%

By Sophie Robinson

‘Shocking figures reveal scale of violence against women as Sarah Everard case sparks

movement to 'reclaim the streets'.

This headline, taken from the Sheffield Telegraph, is just one example of the media reaction

to the outpouring of women’s experiences in light of the tragic Sarah Everard case. 33-year-

old Sarah was tragically kidnapped and murdered near Clapham Common whilst walking

home on the evening of 3 March 2021 and, at the time of writing, Metropolitan Police

Officer Wayne Couzens has been charged with both her kidnapping and her murder.

The ‘shocking figures’ being referred to here are the number of women who have

experienced sexual assault or rape. According to figures from the Crime Survey for England

and Wales, nearly a quarter of women have experienced sexual assault or attempted sexual

assault since the age of 16, whilst one in 14 have experienced rape or attempted rape. An

investigation by UN Women found that 97% of women aged 18-24 have been sexually

harassed. A survey published by the Trades Union Congress revealed that 1 in eight

LGBTQ+ women have experienced serious sexual assault or rape in the workplace, and more than half (54%) of LGBT BME women said they had experienced unwanted touching at work, whilst 45% reported sexual assault and 27% reported serious sexual assault or rape.

And, sadly, the list goes on.

But I’d like to ask: who are these statistics shocking to? They’re not shocking to at least half

of the population. They’re not shocking to your mother, sister, aunt. They’re certainly not

shocking to that 97%.

And this isn’t a rhetorical question either. I genuinely would like to know. Because it seems

to me, if you’re shocked by these figures then you haven’t been paying attention.

And if you mean to tell me that if you haven’t noticed your female friends being yelled at as

they walk down the street or be too scared to get into an Uber alone, or not leaving their

drink unattended, then at that point I simply won’t believe you. At that point, it’s obvious to

me that it’s not a question of you not paying attention. It’s a question of you choosing to

ignore it.

Every single woman that I know has a story. A story of their bodies, spaces, boundaries, or

identities being threatened, hurt, objectified, or disrespected.

So why are people so unwilling to admit that this is the norm? Why is it seemingly so

unbelievable that any one of us females could find ourselves in Sarah Everard’s position?

It’s because to admit this would also mean having to admit that for things to change, there

needs to be an unrecognisable overhaul of the everyday system. It would be impossible for

me to boil down the complexities of the patriarchy that we exist in everyday in one single

article, but it doesn’t take much analysis to realise that the issues facing women can only be

improved by men. Women can scream and shout and advocate until they’re blue in the

face, but until people better their actions and unlearn the harmful rhetoric that they continue to learn and pass on in a vicious cycle, then no meaningful change will come of this


Now as impassioned and as enraged as I feel, similar to many women, I really do believe

that change is possible. It might seem as though one person can’t make a tangible

difference, and although it’s true that these oppressive systems require a total

modernisation from the powers that be, don’t discredit the actions of the individual. And as

dangerous and as uncalled for as I deem the rhetoric ‘not all men’ to be, I am aware that

there are men out of men who are true allies to the cause. To these men reading this, I’d like

to push for you to carry on.

We are all invited into this conversation, and it should be standard to

participate, in order to further progression in our society. I invite you

to stand with women, from all backgrounds, sexuality, race or religion.

Because absolutely everyone can and must do better.

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