On the night of March 3, 33 year old Sarah Everard went missing while walking home from a friend’s house in central London. On March 10, her body was discovered in Kent, more than 50 miles away. London Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens has since been charged with her murder. The news of her tragic story spread far and fast, and within a week outrage erupted around the world.
The murder has fueled a global effort to combat harassment and violence towards women. Across many social media platforms, women have banded together to relay their own experience with harassment. Empowering hashtags such as “#TextMeWhenYouGetHome” and “#ReclaimTheStreets” are on the rise.
The feeling of endangerment is something women have had to face for decades on a daily basis. Sarah Everard was walking home. She was just walking home. As a female, the stories spreading around the internet are painfully familiar. There are many things girls are taught from a young age: never go on runs when it’s not light out. Only run with one earbud in at all times. Make sure to have the correct key in hand before you get to the door — any time spent fumbling is a window of opportunity for anyone lurking in the shadows to take advantage of you. Avoid going into elevators only occupied by one other person. Text someone your location before going on a date with someone you haven’t met before. Don’t make eye contact with a cat-caller, it could lead them to believe you’re interested. Always make sure your blinds are closed. Make sure to have pepper spray on you. Never leave your drink unattended at a party. The list goes on.
Nothing against the people teaching us these things — most of them are helpful. Yet, one is left to wonder why are we trying so hard to prepare and protect our daughters instead of educating the men and other people who commit these acts? No matter what we do to protect ourselves, the harassment and violence will not stop until the people that commit such horrible acts do.
Right now, women are making their voices heard. Whether you’re a woman or not, truly listen to what they are trying to say. It might be a little hard not to feel defensive, but try and put that aside for a moment and realize your place in the current discussion. Ask what you can do to help them feel more at ease. Maybe it’s something as simple as offering to walk your friends home. Help create the shift to a safer environment for all so that women don’t have to carry pepper spray whenever they’re alone. So that they can run alone. So that they can set their drink down for a moment. So that they can feel safe. It is so important to really stop, listen, and be there for one another.
“An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”