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Men Are Questioning How They Can Help Women Feel Safer

After The Tragic Disappearance Of Sarah Everard

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The United Kingdom is shocked and reeling after the disappearance of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, on the evening of March 3 in south London.

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A senior police officer has since been arrested on suspicion of murder while it has just been confirmed that the human remains found in a wooded area near Ashford in Kent belong to the missing woman. “Sarah’s disappearance in these awful and wicked circumstances is every family’s worst nightmare,” the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, said.

With the details of this nightmare still unfolding, social media users have been discussing what men can do to help make women feel safer and less anxious. One of these people is Stuart Edwards, who lives less than 5 minutes from where Sarah went missing. Have a read through the advice for men that everyone gave in Stuart’s viral Twitter thread.

A representative of Plan International UK, which is part of the #CrimeNotCompliment campaign together with their partner Our Streets Now, told Bored Panda that “male allies can come together and tackle the structural inequalities which allow this public sexual harassment to happen in the first place.” Joining the #CrimeNotCompliment campaign which fights to rid the world of public sexual harassment can be the first step.

“Ordinary people taking even the smallest action can make a real difference. If anyone witnessed someone being harassed, a quick check-in afterwards, or an acknowledgment that the girl has a right to feel safe and not to be harassed, can make her feel better about her experience,” the Plan International UK representative told us.

Sarah Everard disappeared on her way home on the evening of March 3

Stuart started a very important discussion about what men can do to make women feel less afraid on the streets

Image credits: StuartEdwards

Here is what some women told Stuart

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Despite the Covid lockdowns emptying the city streets, harassment is still very much an issue. “Girls face a double whammy of restrictions to public space, both as a result of the coronavirus measures and their experiences of street harassment. Despite streets being emptier, this harassment has plagued girls throughout the pandemic, with half (51%) experiencing it over summer, and one in five (19%) during the first national lockdown. Now more than ever, we must stand with girls and champion their right to move freely in public, without the fear of being intimidated and harassed. That’s why we are calling for public sexual harassment to be made a crime.”

Rose Caldwell, the CEO for Plan International UK said had this to say: “All women and girls should feel safe in public spaces, yet they still continue to face harassment every day. They’re being followed, shouted at, touched, and groped—and it needs to stop. That is why our #CrimeNotCompliment campaign, with Our Streets Now, calls upon the government to establish a clear law that criminalizes all forms of public sexual harassment and protects the rights of girls to a life lived without fear.”

She continued: “Currently, there is no UK law that fully criminalizes public sexual harassment, leaving perpetrators to get away with it. As one girl told us, you can be fined for dropping litter in the UK, but not for harassing a woman or girl in public. This cannot be right. Only by enacting legal change will we start to see a cultural shift, so that girls and women will finally begin to feel safe in public spaces.”

Stuart, the author of the thread, told Bored Panda that he feels like he doesn’t have anything else valuable to say. “I asked the question, but it’s the women who replied that are the voices that I think need to be heard. Me commenting would feel like a distraction from that. But thank you for giving a platform to the wider discussion,” he said.

Time writes that Sarah was captured on doorbell video footage walking home from a friend’s house on a main road near Clapham around 9:30 p.m. on March 3. This was the last time that she was recorded to be seen in public. The woman’s family raised alarms after they learned she’d not been in contact with her friends.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, March 9, a senior serving officer of the London Metropolitan Police was arrested at a house in Kent. The officer is part of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command and is in his 40s.

Since Sarah’s disappearance, the topics of sexual harassment, assault, kidnapping, and staying safe have dominated the public discourse. Many women have come forward sharing their own experiences of being harassed.

What’s more, women have been sharing the various things that they do to stay safe whenever they leave their homes. There has also been a call for men to change their behavior and to put an end to victim-blaming (some have even gone as far as suggesting that Sarah may have been at fault because she was walking home alone).

Meanwhile, another man, Carl, encouraged guys to be aware of their actions

 

Image credits: Carl Kennedy

A recent UN Women UK survey found that 80 percent of women of all ages have said that they experienced sexual harassment in public spaces. Meanwhile, among women aged 18 to 24, the vast majority, 97 percent, have revealed that they’ve been victims of sexual harassment.

“This is a human rights crisis. It’s just not enough for us to keep saying ‘this is too difficult a problem for us to solve’—it needs addressing now,” Claire Barnett, the executive director of UN Women UK, declared.

“We are looking at a situation where younger women are constantly modifying their behavior in an attempt to avoid being objectified or attacked, and older women are reporting serious concerns about personal safety if they ever leave the house in the dark—even during the daytime in winter,” Barnett warned.

Meanwhile, a YouGov survey of over 1k women, seen exclusively by the Guardian, showed that the vast majority of respondents (96 percent) did not report incidents of sexual harassment. Around half of them (45 percent) said that reporting them wouldn’t change anything. This shows an utter lack of faith in British authorities.

Here is some more advice from women to men on how to help everyone feel safer on the streets

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The BBC reports that vigils for women’s safety on the streets are being organized all over the UK, as well as in Clapham, where Sarah was last seen. The organizers of the Reclaim These Streets events said that it was wrong that “the response to violence against women requires women to behave differently.” However, the police have stated that the vigils cannot go ahead due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. The organizers plan to go to the High Court to challenge this edict.

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Dick, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, highlighted that it’s still “incredibly rare” for a woman to be abducted on the streets of London. “But I completely understand that despite this, women in London and the wider public—particularly those in the area where Sarah went missing—will be worried and may well be feeling scared,” she said.

The organizers of the vigil that’s meant to be held on Saturday afternoon on Clapham Common revealed that the local police told women “not to go out at night this week.” However, the organizers responded by saying that women aren’t the problem. “This is a vigil for Sarah, but also for all women who feel unsafe, who go missing from our streets, and who face violence every day.”

The UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said that the concerns shared by women “are so powerful because each and every woman can relate.” According to her, “every woman should feel safe to walk on our streets without fear of harassment or violence.”

 

 

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