The Burden of Violence in the Sarah Everard Case

The Burden of Violence in the Sarah Everard Case

Chloe Wong, Staff Writer

Wear bright clothing. Never walk alone. Stay on the phone with a friend. Text a close relative. Don’t run in the mornings or after midnight.

These are the rules that women are expected to follow when walking home from school, the workplace, or even a harmless night out with friends. These are the rules that 33-year-old Sarah Everard followed as she walked home in South London at the reasonable hour of 9:00 p.m. 

In her winter clothing, with a phone pressed to her ear, one wouldn’t immediately see the grainy footage of Everard on her last night alive and pick her out as a murder victim. After all, she did what all women are supposed to: she called her boyfriend as she walked home from a friend’s flat, and it was late, but not too late, certainly not a time when one would be on high guard. Everard followed the rules.

Yet later that night, she still ended up dead in the woods near Ashford, another name on the list of women who have fallen victim to gender-based violence. A London Metropolitan police officer has been charged with her murder, and as of now, the details of her death are still unknown. But her death has sparked a movement in Britain, and the recent protests have uncovered raw outrage in women around the world. 

The Sarah Everard case happened in Britain, some 5,300 miles away from Los Angeles in a nation where 97% of women have been sexually harassed.  But there’s a reason why Everard’s case is so universally terrifying to women and girls, not only in South London but all around the world, and that is because the threat of violence is one most all women know. In a society where the burden of not being murdered or assaulted is put squarely on the shoulders of women, it is disheartening — and that’s putting it mildlyto see that our efforts to protect ourselves mean little in the end.

After all, predators can give a hundred different reasons for why they do what they do, using skimpy tops, tight jeans, and the like to explain why their victims were “asking for it,” so women ensure, as much as we can, that we are not asking for it. We, like Sarah Everard, follow the rules. 

But what if the rules don’t matter? What if modest clothing doesn’t automatically prevent sexual assault; what if calling your boyfriend isn’t enough to guarantee your safety; what if the people who are ideally supposed to protect citizens turn on us in the end? What if, in the wake of a woman’s murder, authorities don’t discourage men from murdering women and girls? Instead, they encourage women to stay inside, to shape their lives around the threat of violence, because, of course, the responsibility is on us, never them. 

Online, women have shared their experiences with violence at the hands of men, galvanized by the Sarah Everard case to use their voices and speak up. The viral hashtag, #textmewhenyougethome, has been used to amplify the cause, in an obvious reference to women texting each other or a loved one to ensure their own safety. The response to these acts of violence has been highlighted as much as the violence itself. 

As a “father and husband” who would “deliver for the safety of women and girls” if elected, London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey said that Everard’s murder deeply saddened him. 

Women should be allowed to wear the clothing they want, to walk the streets alone without fear, to stroll without a phone and leave out that habitual “text me when you get home” message. The responsibility for women’s safety should never be on women, but on the people who commit these violent acts against them.


Photo courtesy of CONANDAILY.COM