What Do We Tell Our Daughters?

Today I read in a news report that under the guise of COVID laws, Wayne Couzens ‘arrested’ Sarah Everard as she walked home from a friend’s house, put her handcuffed into his car and drove her to a spot in Kent where he raped and murdered her.

That is all I know. That is all I want to know.

And to be honest, I knew it already. It seemed obvious to me, from the point that we knew a serving Met police officer had taken a woman off the streets and killed her, that she would never have got into his car unless he had used his position of power over her. It’s what men do every day. 

Yet what we have re-confirmed today is this: The Metropolitan Police cannot keep women safe in their own homes. The Metropolitan Police cannot keep women safe on the streets. And The Metropolitan Police cannot keep women safe from their own officers.

And still, the Commissioner stays in her position. All these failings and no accountability.

In fact, no, scrap that. It is not just the Metropolitan Police, it is every single police force in this country. It was only in March after all, that another serving police officer was jailed for killing a mother-of-two he was having an affair with.

I can also confirm, through personal experience, that it is not only the police that make life in general less safe for women, but the judicial system if you’re ‘lucky’ enough to get there. So whatever way you look at it, the odds are stacked against us. Women are more likely to die at the hands of men, than men are likely to die at the hands of women. And I don’t want to hear any of this #notallmen bullshit.  

The reason that I refuse to read anymore of Sarah Everard’s tragic case is because, as a woman who has also been on the receiving end of a man’s hands around her neck, I find it deeply disturbing. But then, you don’t have to have experienced male violence to find this case extremely upsetting, because we women live with the threat of violence every single day, whether they are ‘small acts’ like the erasure of the word ‘woman’, to bigger threats like a female MP who isn’t safe enough to attend her own political party conference, to absolutely tragic cases like Sarah’s.

The honest truth is that I had a draft of this post in my inbox last week when the body of Sabina Nessa was found. What made me angry then was this, if the institutions – the police, the court system, the government – are not going to do anything to protect us, we women better start educating our daughters to understand that they are not safe in this world. 

According to Nicholas D Kristoff, a political commentator and women’s rights activist, throughout the world, females aged between 15 and 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined. Just take a moment to read that sentence again, in fact, I’ll type it for you: females aged between 15 and 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined.

Combined

Yet violence against women and girls is not a matter of urgency for governments around the world. What does the Met Police do when women disappear off the streets? It tells the rest of us to be more careful, to not walk out alone, in unlit areas, at night.

How about telling men not to kill women? How about stopping with the ridiculous excuses that this pandemic of violence doesn’t exist, including this ‘trending defence’ in court that a woman can die at the hands of a man during an act of rough sex? (Take a moment to imagine how that actually happens, and yet judges are buying it, day in, day out. And the victim is not there to defend herself. Because she is dead, because a man killed her.)

So, the only solution seems to be, we start educating girls in school. We take them out of class, let’s say starting in reception, and we give them the statistics straight: we tell them that they will not be safe in their homes, that they will not be safe on the streets, and they will not be safe with a police officer. We bring them up to fear relationships with men, fear the police, fear the outside world, because danger lurks out there for them.

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Is that what these governments would rather? Of course not. Why? Because we don’t want men to feel targeted. Yet at least we’d keep our girls safe

Nobody wants that though, nobody wants girls to fear the opposite sex. That is not a society. All we want is a society where the lives of men and women are valued equally, where excuses are not made to minimise a man’s actions and maximise a woman’s culpability in her own killing: to choose to walk home alone, to dress a certain way, to stay with a men who treats her badly because getting away is more terrifying still.

When the Met Police let football thugs run riot in Leicester Square for the Euro finals just weeks after they’d stopped a peaceful vigil for Sarah Everard, I wrote to the Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, to express my disgust. I heard back from her assistant, and there started a conversation with branches responsible for preventing violence against women and girls. It was a really positive conversation, I shared my own story, we made plans to speak again, and then I heard nothing. It was words, not deeds. As it was when our Prime Minister in the days after Sarah Everard’s death at the hands of a police officer, decided the solution was to have a greater police presence in bars. Well, I guess then at least the officers who wanted to kill women wouldn’t have to waste hours driving around London waiting to spot their victim.

What an awful image. And yet, that’s what happened.

I’m not reading any more about that court case. I will remind you that you do not have to either. But men, I urge you to read it. And then come and let us know you’ve got our backs. We don’t want your tweets, we want you out on the streets, calling for action, writing to those in power, condemning your friends. You do something for once. 

Look after your sisters, your daughters, your mothers, your friends. We’re not safe out there. 

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