A lot of promises were made after Sarah Everard’s death, but what has actually changed?
Despite pledges to keep us safe, at least 125 women in the UK have been killed since her death
In the immediate days after Sarah Everard’s murder, people gathered in their thousands to mourn her death and protest for real change. A sense of desperation and anger hung in the air above Clapham Common, the site of Sarah’s murder and vigil, as women demanded and prayed for a long awaited change. One vigil attendee said: “I wanted to come down to pay my respects, but also make sure something is done. Enough is enough.”
And then six months later another young woman, Sabina Nessa, was murdered on a walk to the pub to see her friends just five minutes from home. And in January this year 23-year-old teacher Ashling Murphy was murdered whilst out jogging.
Now experts estimate 125 women have been killed by men since Sarah’s death a year ago.
In the aftermath of Sarah’s death there were hashtags and graphics shared on social media highlighting the reality of women’s lives and our constant fear. There were interviews, organisations set up, and petitions started in order to create awareness. More street lamps and plain clothes officers were seen as the solution to a centuries old problem. Men promised to be better, the government promised us we’d be safe and yet 125 women have been killed. It is not good enough.
Changes to the domestic abuse bill have gone through, the government launched its “once in a generation” plan to tackle violence and a new site has been launched to log unsafe spaces. But in reality have they worked? And do women feel any safer?
This is everything that’s happened since the murder of Sarah Everard:
The government released its Tackling Violence Against Women Strategy
Following Sarah’s death the Home Office released a Tackling Violence Against Women Strategy which they hailed as a “once in a generation” opportunity to reduce violence against women and girls.
As part of the strategy they promised to introduce a 24 hour rape and sexual assault helpline, criminalisation of “virginity testing”, putting £5million funding towards tackling violence in public areas at night and creating a site for women to log places they feel unsafe.
So far the Street Safe site has been put into action. The site allows users to log places they have felt unsafe for any number of reasons including poor street lighting or being verbally abused for example. The site is not for reporting crimes. As of March 2022, 12,000 reports have been made.
As part of an update on 1st March 2022, the government said they had funded 79 projects in England and Wales to improve the safety of women in public spaces. They also said they had increased funding for Independent Sexual Violence Advisers and Independent Domestic Violence Advisers. They have asked universities to sign a pledge to not use NDAs for sexual harassment cases.
Amongst the many changes they have implemented they said they are working towards creating a “Victims’ Bill” to ensure the needs of victims at are the centre of the criminal justice system.
The Domestic Abuse Act was updated to include revenge porn and non-fatal strangulation
Amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill became law in late April last year.
The changes involved the criminalisation of the threat to share intimate images and videos, making non-fatal strangulation illegal and banning perpetrators from cross examining their victims in person.
The Department For Transport created a survey to learn how they could create safer streets
In September the Department For Transport created a survey allowing people to share their experience of harassment on the streets.
The survey has now closed and the results from it will be used to plan how to design the UK streets in order to make them safe for users.
The under secretary of state for transport, Rachel Maclean MP, said whilst she knows these problems cannot be solved by design alone she is hoping: “To find out how the design, maintenance and operation of streets can be improved to make sure everyone feels safe and confident using them in their daily lives.
“This is about perception, as much as reality – a street may not be dangerous according to the data and yet people will avoid using it, perhaps at certain times of day or night, because it does not feel safe.”
The National Police Lead For Violence Against Women and Girls was appointed
As part of the Home Office’s strategy Priti Patel announced there would be a dedicated police officer put in charge for tackling violence against women and girls.
Deputy chief constable Maggie Blyth was appointed to the role of National Police Lead for Violence Against Women and Girls in early September and began her work in October.
Sadiq Khan has been calling for misogyny to be made a hate crime
Following the murder of Sabina Nessa, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan called for misogyny to be made a hate crime.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Sadiq described the violence against women and girls as an “epidemic” and wants men to be allies.
As well as making misogyny a hate crime Sadiq argued harassment against women in a public space should be made a criminal offence.
Both the prime minister Boris Johnson and the home secretary Priti Patel have ruled out misogyny being made a hate crime.
An installation dedicated to women’s safety was destroyed
In late July the student organisation Our Bodies Our Streets created an installation in Ponderosa Park in Sheffield. The installation included verses written by the group members to call attention to catcalling and street harassment.
A month later on 31st August it was set on fire. The organisation said it was “deeply disappointed and disturbed”.
They said: “As a team, we are deeply disappointed given the hours of work and effort put into this piece of work, but also all those whose words and experiences were displayed on the sculpture.
“It was a passion project and to have our work taken from us is hurtful. We are taking this attack on our work as a prompt to fight back and not be silenced.”
The police have launched an appeal for information to find out who is responsible for the arson.
An incel mass shooter killed five people
On 12th August last year 22-year-old Jake Davidson killed five people including his mother. During his killing spree he killed three women, one child and a man before turning the gun on himself.
Davidson was part of an online incel community, a group of people who are involuntarily celibate and are usually men who are extremely misogynistic and sexist.
An account belonging to Davidson was taken down on Reddit the day before he committed his killing spree after he was accused of making inappropriate comments to a teenage girl.
Despite all the government pledges, half of women feel less safe according to new research
To mark the six month anniversary of Sarah’s death, Grazia conducted a survey in collaboration with GoFundMe which found 48 per cent of women feel less safe when out alone now.
As part of they survey they found 48 per cent of women worried about someone following them, 34 per cent always walk home with a friend and 15 per cent have now learnt self defence.
Rape reports reached a record high last year
Reports of rape increased by 13 per cent in the last year according to findings by the Office for National Statistics.
63,136 rapes were reported in England and Wales in a 12 month period ending in September 2021.
However rape convictions are at an all time low with just 1.6 per cent of rapes ending up in a charge or summons.
Operation Hutton report is released
Shortly after the death of Sarah Everard Cressida Dick, the then Met Police Commissioner, ordered an investigation into sexual misconduct at the Met.
The findings were published earlier this year and contains pages of messages sent by police officers that include misogynistic, ableist and racist slurs. There were also “jokes” about domestic violence, rape and spiking amongst the groups chats of officers.
125 women have been killed by men since Sarah Everard’s death
Since the murder of Sarah Everard, 125 more women have been killed by men in the UK.
Karen Ingala Smith who runs the campaign website Counting Dead Women said more attention needs to be given to other victims of male violence.
In an interview with the Independent she said: “I don’t want to demean what happened to Sarah Everard, but she has been elevated more than other victims.
“It is the young, pretty professionals who are killed by a stranger who get the attention from the media.”
Though there have been a number of attempts to change legislation and introduce safety measures, at the end of the day it is not enough. Women are still being killed.
Extra street lamps and increased patrols will not make us feel safer or stop a large proportion of men from hating us so much they want us dead.
Handing out rape alarms and creating a new police role will do nothing to keep us safe because we were never the problem to begin with.