The murder of Sarah Everard–How can we go on?

Many of you may know the story of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive who was abducted and murdered by a police officer after setting out to walk home from a friend’s house.  A police officer!

This is a recap of the case:

This tragedy gripped England while the search for her body went on and was followed by a collective outpouring of grief and soul-searching.  What kind of world do we live in?

It is just so “me too”.  How can toxic masculinity still exist?  What horrifies most is not just that Sarah Everard’s life was snuffed out by unspeakable evil, but how frightfully common violence against women is.  How easily it seeps into our society, how quickly we sweep it under the carpet or pretend it isn’t there.

How often will a woman have to be assaulted or murdered for things to change?  What will change look like?

The following Instagram post made me feel physically ill.  When asked what they do on a daily basis to avoid sexual assault, men replied, “nothing, I don’t think about it.”  When the same question was posed to women, the answers were:

  • “Hold my keys between my fingers as a weapon.”
  • “Check the backseat before getting in the car.”
  • “Always carry a cell phone.”
  • “Don’t go jogging at night.”
  • “Always keep the windows locked even on hot nights.”
  • “Never put my drink down and come back to it.”
  • “Be careful not to drink too much.”
  • “Make sure I see my drink being poured.”
  • “Own a big dog.”
  • “Always carry pepper spray.”
  • “Have an unlisted number.”
  • “Have a male voice on my answering machine.”
  • “Never use parking garages.”
  • “Don’t get into an elevator with a lone man or group of men.”
  • “Vary my route and time from work.”
  • “Watch what I wear.”
  • “Don’t use highway rest areas.”
  • “Have and use a home alarm system.”
  • “Don’t wear headphones when jogging.”
  • “Avoid wooded areas, even in the daytime.”
  • “Never rent ground floor apartments.”
  • “Only go out in groups.”
  • “Own a firearm.”
  • “Always meet men for first dates in public places.”
  • “Always have cab fare in cash on hand.”
  • “Never make eye contact with a man on the street.”
  • “Make assertive eye contact with men on the street.”

This overwhelms me with sadness.  I can taste the fear and pain.  To think that more than half the population lives like this.  It cannot be explained by a difference in physical strength.  It cannot be explained by physical attraction.  It. Just. Can’t. Be. Explained.

I may know that I am not like that, so too many men.  But a woman who sees me on a street alone will see my shell, the body of a man, and she might feel fear.  She can’t see inside me and know that she is safe.  It fills me with rage and sadness, rage at the male sex, sadness for her, and deep internal anguish at my body, that just because my body looks male, it is a part of the problem.

In the aftermath of the Sarah Everard murder, I asked my children and their school chums (I don’t think they will ever want to meet me again!) what they think they should consciously do to truly put sexual violence behind us.  I was relieved to hear “Education”.  But it cannot possibly be enough.

Can men and women ever live together?  Do we need to have more structurally safe spaces?  Curfews for men?  Are men even necessary anymore?  Can anyone in their right mind not be a feminist?

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