Sarah Everard: In the wake of rising violence against women, cases like Sabina Nessa show men need to do better

Sarah Everard: In the wake of rising violence against women, cases like Sabina Nessa show men need to do better
Sarah Everard Mark PKG for DIGI
Carl Bennett

By Carl Bennett

Published: 30/09/2021

- 17:27

Updated: 27/09/2023

- 11:58

Now more than ever, there's a sense of dread if a female friend fails to text to say she got home

There has been a word thrown around a lot this week.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner used it to describe the Conservatives.

It’s sparked large debate over whether she was right to say that, or whether it has led the Labour Party down a toxic path.

I’m not here to argue for or against her use of the word.

But that word, I’m sure we can all agree, is one that can be used to describe the former police officer who murdered Sarah Everard.

Wayne Couzens is scum.

It’s a simple as that.

Families have had their worlds ripped apart because of him.

He is scum and I won’t mention his name again.

The story is not and should not be about him.

Sarah Everard was just walking home. With a whole life ahead of her. Not knowing - nor indeed expecting – it to end as soon as it did, nor in the way that it did.

She was just walking home.

This story has sparked a movement where women have bravely voiced their experiences and their worries about this.

Sure, when I walk home late in the I can be a little concerned in case there’s a person walking through the darkness towards me. But never have I felt compelled to have my house key hidden in my fist in case I need to defend myself. I have never truly felt that something bad would happen.

I have never needed to purchase and carry around me with a rape alarm just in case.

What’s horrifying is the number of women who have.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told friends to text me when they get home. I’ve always thought that was just normal behaviour. My male friends rarely actually do text me when they get home, and I just presume that’s because they’ve forgotten or just gone straight to bed, and I don’t have to worry about it.

But if a female friend doesn’t text there’s a sense of dread. Particularly now more so than ever.

When the Sarah Everard story broke, I spoke with many of the women in my life about their experiences and what can be done to make them feel safe. I listened to what they had to say but failed to update my behaviour.

I recently went out for a drink with a friend, and after the usual goodbye and the “text me when you’re home” we went our separate ways.

I was halfway home before she messaged me to say a man had confronted her.

She was wise to this, and smartly knew what to do to get out of the situation and made it home safely. Seemingly she also seems to have moved on, as if this was almost an occurrence to be expected.

But as someone who identifies as an ally, I let her down by not even offering to walk her home.

That sits with me even more so following the death of Sabina Nessa. She was just making a five-minute journey.

Some say this is a London issue. An ex told me she confidently walked home after nights out in Birmingham and never felt threatened. But I’m beginning to think she’s one of the very rare women who hasn’t had some sort of problem.

One thing that stuck with me was a tweet posted by Harriet Johnson, which said:

The thought that this has likely happened to any of the incredible women in my life haunts me. And as men we need to do better.

Women are mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, girlfriends, wives, friends, colleagues, peers. Why should they have to change behaviours like walking home?

Why should they feel the need to carry a rape alarm?

We, as men, need to better educate ourselves in making sure this doesn’t happen again.

I need to update my behaviour to ensure the women in my life feel safe.

I need to teach my son, like my dad to me, how to respect women.

My thoughts are with the family and friends of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa. I’m so sorry for your loss.

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