Image by Almara Abgarian from the Sarah Everard Vigil 13/03/2021
In a week that brought with it the discovery of Sarah Everard’s remains following her horrific murder, I, like many, have listened to the impassioned, if not desperate pleas of women of every generation to ‘reclaim the streets’. A plea that one might be forgiven for suggesting that women ever had a claim to the streets..... that the streets of London had ever belonged to women...to be free; to be safe; to be confident....to be all that they could be...but no. The harsh reality is that the streets of London, no more than the streets of anywhere else, have never been a safe, hospitable place for women. They have never belonged to women.
Realities turned quasi-social conventions and truths relied on by some to defend the indefensible that has been Sarah’s murder. Pious, self-righteous pillars of society who knowingly whisper about women who go against such well-established truths: ‘asking for trouble’; asking for it’. Such are our civil liberties....branded for simply walking home.
Violence against Women is one of the most heinous crimes in our society, yet rarely does the rhetoric, never mind the conviction and sentencing attached to such acts, reflect the criminality with which they are perpetrated.
Domestic Violence; Physical, Emotional and Mental Abuse, Rape, FGM, Sexual Harassment, Stalking....otherwise criminal are somehow lessened by the fact that they are against women, and often presented in a ‘behind closed doors’ wrapper, where women’s voices are discouraged; where women’s voices are disbelieved; where women’s voices are unheard; where connections consistently fail to be made between wider issues of the instance of domestic violence against women and child abuse; where the murder of a young woman provides fodder for scoffing and the subject of jokes.
What saddened me...no...sickened me most around the events of last week surrounding Sarah’s murder was the narrative of senior officials: ‘that very few women are actually abducted off the street’....isn’t this somewhat off piste? .....one woman is too many and only belies the truth.
How many faceless, nameless, unknown women go missing off our streets every year without a trace...women who have slipped through cracks in the system and conveniently been forgotten: trafficked; pimped: do their lives matter any less?
Nor is it clear what the true instance of violence against women is as women continue to face a hostile system that keeps them down; keeps them silent.
How much violence, abuse against women will continue to be tolerated as if somehow inevitable; how many more women must live their lives in fear; how many more girls must be mutilated - their femininity and childhood stolen, leaving silhouettes of the lives they should have had; how many more rape victims will never get justice, plagued by a torment that makes them take their own lives; how many more Sarah’s must there be? What will it take to recognise these actions as the horrific crimes they are; when will the punishment fit the crime?
So many questions to situations we all know exist but remain a relative taboo in many people’s heads.... the elephant in the room to which their all-encompassing retort is to tell us ‘that very few women are abducted off the streets’.....poppycock!
These women are your grandmothers, your mothers, sisters, daughters and friends. These women are the very heart and soul of the fabric of our society: protect them.
Written by Johann Parkhill
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