Following the disappearance and alleged murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard in south London, the internet is ablaze with anger, fear, and outrage over what happened to the marketing executive as she walked home.
Last seen on March 3rd at 9:30 pm, Sarah was walking home alone from a friend’s house. On Wednesday, a London police officer was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and murder in connection to Sarah’s disappearance after human remains were found in woodland in Kent.
Though the London police force assured the public that abductions from the streets are “rare,” social media paints a different picture, with women around the world emphasising how common Sarah’s story really is.
Over the past 24 hours, women have told their stories of being assaulted in broad daylight. Women have shared their experiences of being followed or chased by men while walking down crowded streets. Women have explained the steps they take when out alone at night, like clutching their keys to use as a weapon, changing into sneakers to help them run, or calling a friend or family member while walking.
Women have attempted to articulate how exhausting it is to live in fear and constantly feel unsafe.
“Women and girls’ very disproportionate experience of forms of gender-based violence is tied to their ongoing inequality, with many women facing multiple disadvantages due to race, disability, poverty, sexuality or immigration status,” a report by End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) explains.
Violence against women is an epidemic that’s only getting worse. In the UK, a woman dies at the hands of a man every three days, and more than half a million women are raped or sexually assaulted per year. From March 2019 to March 2020, the total number of women killed by a man increased by 10%— an increase for the second consecutive year.
Globally, WHO estimates that 1 in 3 women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, often more than once.
So no, “not all men” commit violence against women. But enough do that women can’t possibly know which ones.
In the wake of Sarah Everard’s story, some men are asking the question: What can I do to help?
While dismantling the patriarchy and tackling gender-based violence may seem like an insurmountable goal, women have taken to Twitter and Instagram to share how men can help women feel more comfortable in their day-to-day lives.
Disclaimer: This is not about *saving* women, this is about supporting them. Men are not owed anything from women for being supportive allies.
Stand up if you see a woman being harassed
Harassment from men comes in all forms— verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual. Examples of harassment that women face on a daily basis in public spaces include cat-calling, name-calling, invading personal space, being forced into conversation, being told to smile, touching or groping without consent, getting berated for not engaging in conversation or seeming interested in the man, and many more.
Any situation in which a woman seems uncomfortable, you should speak up and stand up.
Speak out against your male friends if they use derogatory terms or act inappropriately with a woman
Don’t let your male friends call women names like “bitch,” “slut,” “whore,” and “c*nt” to their faces and behind closed doors. Call out your male friends when they victim-blame and perpetuate misogynistic rhetorics like “not all men.”
Stand up to your male friends if you see them making a woman uncomfortable.
Leave space between you and a woman walking alone, always show your face, and make some noise when entering spaces at night
Whether day or night, if a woman is walking alone, do not trail her closely. Cross the road so she knows you are not following her, especially if it’s dark. Do not attempt to overtake her, and do not call out that you are coming up behind her— this might be with good intentions but it startles and can be intimidating.
If you’re coming towards her, remove your hood, keep your face visible, and don’t look down. At night, jingle keys or make some noise when turing corners, entering into your apartment building, or walking down a dark street so she knows you’re there.
It’s not about you, it’s about her safety and comfort
Women are taught from an early age to be on high-alert at all times. Women are raised with the expectation that it is not “if I get assaulted/murdered/raped” but “when I get assaulted/murdered/raped.” Women are expected to bear this burden alone, so men can live free of accountability in a world that enables violence against women but refuses to acknowledge that it exists.
Understand that these steps are not about you and whether or not you will attack her. These steps are about helping women feel more comfortable in everyday situations and allowing women to off-load some of this burden.
Australia national family violence counselling service hotline: 1800 737 732
U.S. domestic violence hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233
UK national domestic abuse helpline: 0808 2000 247