Something terrible has happened in London this week. It seems that yet another woman has had her life taken by a man.
I’m sure I speak for all women and some men when I say we have all experienced fear on our streets, we’ve all thought twice about walking home alone after dark, all kept our hand on our keys in our pockets, experienced a heightened stress response that makes our hearts beat faster, been very aware of our surroundings, looked for people and places of refuge and wished we could still run as fast as we could when we were teenagers.
Yet the fact remains most women are not murdered by strangers, they are murdered by someone they know. So why are we afraid?
Because we have all experienced unwelcome attention at some point, been spoken to inappropriately, whistled at, followed, harassed, touched, groped or worse by people we don’t know and without our permission. And usually they are men.
We all know and love wonderful men, but what we don’t need is well-meaning men thinking we require their protection. We don’t need a knight on a white charger becoming the new champion of feminism, what we actually need is to be treated as equals and still – in 2021 – we are not. That is why we don’t feel we can walk home alone while most men wouldn’t think twice about it, and only we understand that. The fact that a woman has done it and a man chose to take her life only serves to reinforce that belief and that fear. She should have been safe. This was not her fault.
So instead of patting yourselves on the back for being good men, publicly calling out the behaviour of bad men, while all the while serving to reinforce the differences women have been conscious of for centuries, let’s try and involve everyone in the conversation, because it will take all of us to fix this. We are all human beings and we all need to respect, look out for and take care of each other so that we all feel safe walking home alone. But until then when I walk down a dark street to the multi-storey car park this evening on my own, I’ll have my hand on my keys-you bet I will.
Our hearts go out to Sarah’s friends and family today. We know ripple effect of her loss will be felt by all of you for a long time to come.
If you need to reach out to someone about any of theses issues we have put some useful websites and helplines below. Sadly many of them were born as a direct response to the murder or harm of women and it would be better to exist in a world where they were not needed.
Hollie Guard developed the Hollie Guard App in memory of Hollie Gazzard, a 20-year-old woman who was murdered by her ex-partner. It is free to use
Suzy Lampugh Trust provide training and advice on lone working following the disappearance of Suzy while showing a house to a client
Action against Stalking provide help and support around stalking and were established as a charity in 2014 by founder and CEO, Ann Moulds, after her own experience as a victim of stalking
Rape Crisis Scotland work to end sexual violence in Scotland and operate a helpline for anyone affected by rape or sexual assault 08088 01 03 02