On the 3rd of March 2021, 33-year-old Sarah Everard walked home after leaving a friend’s house around 9pm. Sarah’s route home consisted of main roads, busy streets and well-lit paths, the typical thing young women are taught from an early age to stick to for ‘our own safety’. Sarah was dressed in bright clothing, a green jacket, bright shoes and patterned leggings, items that wouldn’t be inviting any predators in, as they’re memorable and more on the reserved side which young women have been taught is better clothing to go out in for ‘our own safety’. Sarah rang her boyfriend for fifteen minutes on her journey, updating him on where she was, ringing someone on a journey to get from A to B is normal for a woman walking anywhere and at any time of day for ‘our own safety’. Do you see the reoccurring problem here? Sarah stuck to the rules we’re taught when we’re little girls about walking alone, it still didn’t stop the tragedy that occurred. This then means the rules that women follow to ensure their safety is not a guarantee, and isn’t that frightening? At no point in the day can we walk freely around the streets without fear of being kidnapped or murdered, and even if our cases are not as extreme as the horrific end Sarah faced (by a policeman who we should be able to trust) what do the streets have in hold for a young woman walking home just after the sun sets.
I decided to title this article to make you think. One way of reading it is that you should not walk alone, how irresponsible and reckless could Sarah have been to walk instead of getting a taxi or public transport. Due to the current Covid pandemic everyone has been advised to stay off public transport for their own safety. Public transport is also seen as ‘crime attractors’ as sexual assault can happen swiftly and by the next stop the predator can escape. Fair enough, so why didn’t Sarah take a taxi? Well in London alone in 2018 it was recorded that there were 294 sexual offences made by taxis and private hire cars, 25 of which were rapes, and only 17 drivers were charged as a result. Also, these are only on the recorded crimes, therefore it is likely there are a lot more cases that were never reported. I myself have panicked in a taxi before, feeling uncomfortable on a ten-minute journey, constantly rolling the window down if I’m on my own for my ‘own safety’ in case I got locked in the car and assaulted. So, in hindsight Sarah could’ve gotten a taxi but she may have also faced sexual assault, rape and the same end in which she did. For those of you have problems wondering why she walked instead of getting a taxi I hope those statistics are sinking in. Maybe this explains to you why Sarah decided to ‘walk alone’ and instead of questioning why she walked you should be questioning why predators have been taught that women walking alone are ‘asking for it’.
The second way of reading the title is to recognise that Sarah was not an anomaly. She does not ‘walk alone’. Between the ages of 18-24, 97% of women have said they’ve been sexually harassed. If you think you’ve escaped that age bracket unfortunately 80% of women of all ages have stated, they have experienced sexual harassment in public spaces. I have shown you numbers, but I want you to think about ten women you love, statistically eight of them have been sexually harassed. Sarah’s tragedy has sparked an outcry for the women of the UK, Sarah is not alone, the majority of women in the UK will face some sort of sexual harassment and that is stomach curdling. The saddest part is a survey created by the government shows that 96% of 1,000 women didn’t report their incidents, as they have a complete lack of confidence in authority. It then doesn’t surprise you that the man who has been arrested and is facing trial is a man who joined the Met police in 2018. The very authority who we entrust our safety to, is now facing trial for the death of a single woman who represents all women’s safety across the UK. As the director of the UN Women UK, Claire Bennet stated: ‘this is a human rights crisis’, this is not just about women, it is about educating everyone and ensuring the safety of women once and for all. Sarah Everard’s death is heart-breaking, and we can’t let the horrific incident she faced fall into the media background while women still feel unsafe on and off the streets. Sarah you do not walk alone.
Header image credit: Maariyah Fulat