On the 3rd March 2021 Sarah Everard went missing, and on the 10th March her body was found and a serving police officer was arrested.
As we approach the anniversary, we send our thoughts to Sarah’s loved ones and ask the media to be thoughtful about how they use her image as they mark this painful anniversary. Sarah’s murder sparked a much needed public conversation and a political response that continues to be needed. But she was also an individual woman with people who loved her and are still grieving.
The details of Sarah’s murder were chilling. She was ‘just walking home’ when a man intent on kidnapping and raping a young woman used his position as a trusted member of the Metropolitan Police to carry out an attack he had planned and prepared for. It is still chilling.
When the then commissioner of the Metropolitan Police referred to the problem as a ‘few bad apples’ she misunderstood not only the scale of deep-seated cultural issues and harmful attitudes in her force that have since come to light in repeated media and inspectorate reports. She also misunderstood the collective anger and trauma being expressed by women in London and the nation.
All women and girls experience and live in fear of male violence at some level, and we are also told that when men are violent to women, those women are in some way at fault and if they had taken different actions they would have been safe. Women and girls take micro actions daily trying to stay safe and Sarah’s murder was a shocking and harrowing confirmation that that this is still not enough.
When the Met Police issued a statement that implied she could have questioned why her kidnapper was operating alone it was risable, it was patently ridiculous to suggest such an action given the power of the police officer in that situation.
This is the narrative and context we need to change in all cases of male violence against women, where women are disproportionately victims and men the perpetrators of domestic abuse and sexual violence but women are blamed for that fact.
In the year since Sarah’s disappearance, the Femicide Census estimates that 110 women have been killed by men. Most do not cause public or political outcry, most are killed by men they know – partners, ex-partners and family members. There is always a power dynamic at play that is reinforced by our culture, society and institutions.
Add to that gender dynamic other inequalities including racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and poverty and the barriers to survivors accessing support and sympathetic services only increase more.
We welcome the announcement this week from the Home Secretary confirming that male violence against women will be a national policing priority, putting it on a par with crimes like terrorism and child abuse. We supported this recommendation made by the police inspectorate last year and we look forward to the details of how resourcing will change to make this a reality.
We join others in calling for the inquiry into the Met Police to be a statutory inquiry into misogyny and racism so it has the powers to root out the behaviour and attitudes that allowed the abuse in Charing Cross and the mistreatment of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, in addition to the much needed review of vetting processes.
We also welcome the focus of the new Home Office’s public awareness campaign on perpetrators and bystanders, putting the focus on those who have the most power to end male violence.
Media outlets will no doubt be asking what’s changed in the year since Sarah Everard’s murder. Whilst public and political awareness has clearly raised on the women’s experiences of male violence, but we need to see that this translates into funding to support women and girls and a commitment to tackle misogyny in the police and wider society.