The awakening for Everard
The death of Sarah Everard has led to the awakening of communities everywhere on the ongoing problem that women and children face around being victimised for simply existing. The symbol of patriarchy reeks out of the very same events that led to the murder of Sarah, not because the murderer was a serving police officer but because he was a man who somehow felt justified in doing what he did. This angers me deeply, that anyone would justify their actions towards someone else simply because of the other person “being there”.
In my line of work, I hear a lot from women, children and indeed some men, who were sexually abused and afterwards made to feel guilty about the abuse as if they were asking to be abused. I hear horrific stories coming out from these amazing people who after disclosing to the authorities of their abuse are being told that nothing can be done, only to then shadow doubt on the seriousness of the crime, by making suggestions like people were “too drunk”, “wearing almost nothing”, “being out too late at night”, and “if you can’t remember how do you know it happened?”. Every time I hear this my blood boils, almost to the point of eruption, but I need to contain myself because those brave people do not need yet another emotive person feeling anger and sorry for them (as surely they already do that a lot themselves).
They are victims but should not be victimised. This needs to change and I only hope that the loss of Sarah Everard may be the awakening for change in our societies. We need a change in the law everywhere, we need a change in attitude everywhere, and we need a change in our patriarchal approach to how we treat each other. Maybe this kind of victim blaming was accepted 50 years ago, and I say maybe with a big reticence, but just because it was then it does not make it right. The courts also need to change, and the one thing that absolutely makes me angry is the adversary nature of English courts, treating victims of sexual assault as if they are witnesses one can cast doubt on, using their humanity against them to disprove that they were either not raped, or are somehow to blame for what happened to them. Shame on the courts and shame on judicial process for allowing this to happen.
It is hard enough for someone to come forward and report they were sexually assaulted or a victim of a crime; it is hard enough that people have to bear with their own internalised shame of having to acknowledge that something so horrific happened to them. So, why should they be subjected to further public enquiry, embarrassment, and doubt. What one wears, what one drinks, what time one is out of the house should never ever ever be used against anyone, because when we do that, we are giving criminals, rapists and sex offenders the power of self-justification for what they do to people. The way to help both victims and criminals is to make the law clear, concrete, explicit, and not this grey mumbo jumbo that maybe the crime was not crime if certain conditions were not met.
Wake up people! Sarah and all the countless women, children and men who have been victims of a crime are crying for a change. It may be too late for them sure, but not too late for those who may still fall victims one day. It could be any of us, or it could be our own mothers, sisters, or daughters.
RIP Sarah. May this loss lead to the positive change that society needs right now.