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Letter to Editor: The horrific victim blaming of Sarah Everard

Crime / Thu 11th Mar 2021 at 03:37pm

Dear Sir,

I am deeply saddened to hear of the murder of Sarah Everard, it’s a shocking crime and my heart goes out to her family and friends.

I am horrified at the amount of victim blaming I have seen on social media; victim blaming is all too common. The comments made when women are abused, attacked, or murdered such as “she should not have been walking there”, or “she should not have spoken to the guy”, “gone home with him”, “drank”, “worn that skirt”, etc., lay the blame at the feet of the victim rather than the perpetrator.

Our media all too often leads with a headline like “Woman Raped After Going Home with a Man”; instantly blaming the woman for going home with a man she trusted, rather than calling out his crime of raping her.

It was reported on Radio 4 today by Jess Phillips that since Sarah went missing there have been a further six women and a little girl killed in this country.

What has happened to Sarah hits home to women everywhere; we all make those calculations she will have made. Should we take the longer route which is well lit or take the shortcut. We push the fear aside for the voice in us that says don’t be silly, you have a right to walk the route you want and be safe doing so.

For many women, the details of Sarah Everard’s story will have been a chilling reminder of the fear in the back of our minds when out walking alone. It is a reminder of that common fear for women, the listening out for footsteps or slow-driving cars and being hyper vigilant. How many of us walk with our keys in our hands, make sure we have shoes on that we can run in, or pretend we are on the phone with someone speaking loudly?

Too often when a man murders a woman he is depicted as a monster, but they are not monsters – they are men, men who chose to kill a woman – it wasn’t a story book monster that murdered Sarah. We must stop the mixed messages and be real.

Something the me-too movement has taught us is how common abuse of women is and as women, we already knew this. Sadly, far too many men still need to learn it. It’s time to recognise that speaking over women in a meeting, calling women names, making derogatory comments about how she looks, mansplaining and undermining them, rape threats because a woman dares to speak out on social media, must stop.  Men have a vital role in ensuring things change. It’s not OK to ignore misogyny because the man doing it is your mate, or it’s too hard to challenge. Men must speak out.

Life experiences of women are real, they must not be minimised because it might be a bit uncomfortable for society. The death of Sarah, the six women, and one little girl murdered since she went missing are a testament to that.

I am sure most men abhor violence against women and girls, they must stand up and be counted, challenge and speak out, be a voice with women and work together to end violence against women.

Cllr Lanie Shears,
Labour Councillor for Mark Hall Ward  

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