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
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.