Human Lives Human Rights: The cruel murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer has shone a spotlight on violence against women and girls and police failures to properly tackle these issues within their own ranks.
Streets up and down the UK were flooded with tens of thousands of protesters in the immediate aftermath of Everard’s rape and murder at the hands of Wayne Couzens back in March as people paid tribute to Everard and vented their rage at her murder.
It is not the first time an act of violence against women has left the nation appalled but the horror of the incident seemed to ignite a consensus on the need for change that was different to any other time before. Campaigners, politicians and members of the public were fiercely united in their criticism of the government and the police for not doing enough to address violence against women and girls.
But of course male violence is by no means a new phenomenon. Between two and three women are murdered each week by their partners or ex-partners in England and Wales. While one in four women will suffer domestic abuse at some point during their lives – with domestic abuse having a higher rate of repeat victimization than any other crime.
While statistically speaking, the home is the most dangerous place for a woman to be, harassment and abuse is also prevalent in public places. And Everard’s murder triggered an outpouring of women sharing highly personal stories about being sexually harassed, assaulted, or abused by men on the street.
Meanwhile, a survey by UN Women in spring found 97 per cent of young women in the UK said they had been sexually harassed, while 80 per cent reported experiencing sexual harassment in public spaces. On top of this, previous research by charity Plan International found one in three girls in the UK have been harassed in their school uniforms.
Everard’s death has also fuelled anger at the police – with Metropolitan Police officers criticised for aggressively grabbing women paying tribute to Everard at a peaceful vigil in Clapham in south London in Spring before taking them away while others screamed and cried out.
More recently, conversations have again abounded as disturbing new details emerged about Everard’s death last month, and Couzens, the Met Police officer who wielded Covid lockdown restrictions to falsely arrest Everard before kidnapping, raping and strangling her, was sentenced to a whole-life prison term.
But the question remains: How, as a society, can we end this cycle of violence and ensure women are safer?