Manchester’s Sarah Everard Vigil: UoM’s silence this week has been deafening

‘I am overwhelmed and exhausted, yet the uni have shown no acknowledgement as to what is happening’

TW: Discussion of mental health, sexual violence, harassment and assault

For women, this past week has been overwhelming and suffocatingly bleak. In-between International Woman’s Day and Mother’s Day, a woman’s mental health and struggles were gaslit by a well-known male presenter and a woman went missing and was later found dead, the suspect in her disappearance, not only a man, but a man of authority and power.

I for one, have been in a zombified, depressed and hopeless state; numb one minute and in floods of tears the next. But what has fuelled me with rage, replacing my icy numbness and desire to pull the covers over my head and not ever leave the safety of my bed, is how the University of Manchester has not acknowledged this past week’s events.

Whilst Sarah Everard did not go missing in Manchester, I have grown up in Clapham, yet it does not even take a shared location in order to feel the pain, the shared fear or the despair, which I feel; what it takes, is simply being and having lived as, a woman.

Why has the University of Manchester not addressed events which have had detrimental effect on women’s mental wellbeing? Where is their support or recognition as to what the women under their care are going through?

A student told the Manchester Tab: “It has been so overwhelming and so exhausting – I haven’t been able to do ANY uni work because my mind is so focused on everything going on.

“I’m doing a crime and deviance module and am having to do readings about police brutality yet there has been no acknowledgement as to what has been happening.”

Channel 4 announced a “staff wellbeing day” on the 15th March, in which they closed as so to give their employees “a much-needed break from laptops/ emails/ Teams/ meeting/ Zoom etc”. So if a big television company can do it, surely a university can too?

Credited to: Erica Chesworth

The student went on to speak of her experience of the vigil, held in remembrance and honour of Sarah Everard, in St Peter’s Square in Manchester’s City Centre on Sunday. The vigil consisted of flowers and candles being placed around the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst and it’s attendance taking a moment to reflect.

The student said: “Uni should be doing the same (as Channel 4). When I went to the vigil, a lot of women speaking out and sharing stories were uni students.

“The vigil was really empowering – lots of women were sharing stories which was heartbreaking but so powerful. The police weren’t there so obviously everything was peaceful.”

Whilst the vigil was peaceful, the issue of the students who spoke of their own experiences and the university’s silent response to addressing the impact this week’s events have had on the women in their care is abysmal.

Students have not only had their voices overruled in the democratic referendum as to whether Nancy and the managerial team should leave, but have been ignored and left unsupported in a time of extreme violence against women.  Students are suffering alone, their voices ignored and silenced and their mental healths once again, completely neglected.

A letter template to the University of Manchester been created to address their silence regarding Sarah Everard, and can be found here. The letter details sections in red which can be edited by each student to be more specific to their personal experiences. It highlights how Manchester does not feel like a safe place for women and how students have been impacted mentally and their university work potentially effected due to recent news coverage.

A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “The murder of Sarah Everard is an abhorrent event and we understand how this has heightened feelings of vulnerability among many women in our community. Earlier this week we emailed all students with detailed guidance on safety resources and safe spaces, and the wellbeing and mental health support which is available to all students at any time. This information was also posted to social media.

“We are fully committed to the campaign against sexual harassment and gender-based violence. This week we have promoted the Reclaim the Night events taking place and University staff have listened and spoken at these events.

“Any students affected by Sarah Everad’s tragic death and related issues can also access support via School Support offices and our Counselling and Mental Health services. Students can report sexual harassment and violence using our report and support platform and a trained advisor will respond and support the student. Beyond that, the University has also proposed an Action Network to be made up of statutory and voluntary sector organisations who will take a strategic overview of the work in this area. There will be senior and expert representation to ensure ongoing commitment. A key partner in this will be students.”

The University spokeperson also sent links in which to access support and services within the University which can be found here, in regards to sexual harassment, university policy, Reclaim the Night and safety tips.

Feature image credit to: Lizzie Rose 

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Here’s how you can take part in the Reclaim the Night events in Manchester this week