Since Sarah Everard vanished on the evening of March 3, while walking home alone in Clapham, London, women have shared communal feelings of terror and horror online.
Although precious little is known about the 33-year-old’s sudden disappearance, it has been highlighted that this story feels far too familiar. Many have spoken of feeling "sickened”, “scared”, and “shaken”. It speaks to a deeply ingrained reality: that women are still not safe.
And on Wednesday, even more evidence was published about the sheer scale of the abuse directed at women.
The survey from UN Women UK, published March 10, found that almost all young women in the UK have experienced sexual harassment, and most don’t believe it gets dealt with.
A poll over over 1,000 women, conducted through YouGov, found that 97% of women aged 18-24 revealed they had faced harassment, 80% of which took place in public.
An exclusive look at the data in the Guardian revealed that 96% of women did not report the incidents, with 45% saing they didn't think reporting it would make any difference.
The authors of the survey said that there is a pervasive problem in the UK, in that because people believe Britain leads the world on gender equality, it forgets about the abuse that women, especially within marginalised groups, face on a daily basis.
“This is a human rights crisis,” said Claire Barnett, executive director of UN Women UK. “It’s just not enough for us to keep saying ‘this is too difficult a problem for us to solve’ — it needs addressing now.”
“We are looking at a situation where younger women are constantly modifying their behaviour in an attempt to avoid being objectified or attacked, and older women are reporting serious concerns about personal safety if they ever leave the house in the dark — even during the daytime in winter,” she added.
Every 10 minutes, an adolescent girl dies of violence somewhere in the world.
This is the message that the UN Women project wants to send — that the current systems in place to stop gender violence globally simply aren’t working.
In addition to the survey, it collected stories in workshops with hundreds of women, and launched an open letter to the UK government to design better public spaces that puts women first. You can add your name to the letter here.
It also published a video as part of the campaign in December 2020, featuring trailblazing feminist activists including Gina Martin, who changed the law in England and Wales to ban upskirting, and Payzee Mailka, who is fighting to make child marriage illegal in the UK.
But while it is well documented that world suffers from a silent pandemic of gender violence and sexual harassment, the discussion around the disappearance of Sarah Everard has highlighted that, still, women are being blamed for the violence levelled against them.
As a groundswell of personal stories have emerged online, there has been criticism of the local police response, who have reportedly been knocking on doors in Clapham and Brixton to warn women to “not go out alone.” Moreover, a serving Metropolitan Police officer has since been arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of murder in connection to the case.
Here’s some of the most powerful tweets we’ve seen in response to the news.
If I see one more comment on Sarah Everard making a "poor decision" to walk home alone at night, I might scream. I was attacked in broad daylight on a bright sunny morning, yards from my front door. Stop focusing on women's choices and start focusing on the men that attack us.— Georgia O'Brien (@georgiacobrien) March 10, 2021
The discussion around Sarah Everard makes me so sad about how normalised for women things like personal safety are. I remember a man following me as I was walking home asking for my number once and I was like “oh great now I have to detour so he doesn’t know where I live”— Mollie Goodfellow (@hansmollman) March 10, 2021
the level of victim blaming around the disappearance of Sarah Everard is genuinely disgusting. Women are perfectly entitled to walk home from their friend's flat and be confident they will arrive safely. It's 2021 and we're still having to say this.— Fears (@fears___) March 9, 2021
Sarah Everard did everything right. Everything women are 'supposed' to. Bright clothing. Main road. Called her man. Every woman I know in Clapham doesn't feel safe at night. Not to walk home from work, to exercise, to walk to the shop. I wish more men understood this feeling.— LAURA. (@thelaurabird) March 10, 2021