Death of Sarah Everard sees mothers and daughters unite to banish fear

Police ban plans for vigil in London park on Saturday for women to make a stand against violence

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Women have mobilised across the UK to protest the death of Sarah Everard, whose body British police confirmed on Friday had been found in Kent woodland.

Even before the announcement, a series of online and in-person vigils were organised across the UK this weekend. Caitlin Prowle, organiser of the Reclaim These Streets campaign, said women had been inspired to express "togetherness and solidarity" after the marketing worker's disappeared.

Police have arrested a serving officer on suspicion of her kidnapping and murder but British women have reacted against the wider vulnerability many feel. Many declare that not enough is being done to protect them from predators.

A court ruling late on Friday upheld a police ban on attempts to organise a vigil in Clapham Common, the area of south London where Ms Everard was last seen walking home from a visit to a friend. The Metropolitan Police revoked permission for it to go ahead because of Covid-19 restrictions.

“I understand this ruling will be a disappointment to those hoping to express their strength of feeling, but I ask women and allies across London to find a safe, alternative way to express their views," said Commander Catherine Roper of the Metropolitan Police. “Our hope has always been that people stick to the Covid rules. Taking enforcement action is always a last resort.

“We continue to speak with the organisers of the vigil in Clapham."

Whether digitally or physically, women across the country are determined to turn the tragic events of Ms Everard’s death into a rallying cry.

Among them is former politician Anna Soubry, a vocal supporter of the planned vigil, who told The National she was dismayed at the lack of progress made over the decades.

“I think it's just brought it home to women of my generation that the stuff that we had experienced when we were our daughters' ages, is actually no better. Things have not changed for our daughters.”

There has been a groundswell across social media of people discussing and sharing experiences of harassment and violence against women, exposing a shocking gender divide.

"It's raised this issue that so many women of all ages, especially younger women, that they can't live the same lives as their male friends. And that is not right. And it's been like this for far too long, arguably forever. And it's got to change," Ms Soubry told The National.

A former criminal barrister, Ms Soubry urged the government to take the lead on reform, including an overhaul of the criminal justice system.

The government is considering enacting a new law to try to protect women from public sexual harassment, The Telegraph reported Friday.

Writing in The Sun, Home Secretary Priti Patel said that the government was working on a new national strategy to tackle violence against women with feminist campaigner Nimco Ali.

Quote
It could have been my daughter. It could have been many hundreds of thousands of other mothers' daughters. Anna Soubry.

About one in three women worldwide will be subjected to physical or sexual violence during their lifetime, and this pervasive criminal behaviour has increased during the pandemic, according to the World Health Organisation.

Less than 2 per cent of all reported rape cases are prosecuted in the UK, with a record low in 2019-2020, with 2,102 cases, down about 30 per cent year on year.

Next week, the House of Lords will meet to debate an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill which would make misogyny a hate crime in England and Wales.

Ms Soubry said the case "hit hard" because of the similarities she drew with her own daughter, who had walked the same streets as Ms Everard the evening she went missing.

"It could have been my daughter. It could have been many hundreds of thousands of other mothers' daughters," Ms Soubry told The National

Parallels have been drawn across the board.

Following the confirmation of Ms Everard’s death, many people went online to express condolences and despair over how dangerous the simple act of walking home was.

One Twitter user shared a poem called To Go Safely Home, which has been shared hundreds of times.

A TikTok video viewed over 300,000 times shows Sarah Liza expressing her sense of powerlessness and despair. The video ends with a chilling caution: “if it could happen to her, it could happen to me.”

It is this fear that is prompting women like Wallis Grant to rally and join in the vigils taking place at the weekend.

"I think people are angry and people are frustrated. And this is a way to show that collective frustration," Ms Grant told The National.

“You are not a citizen if you have a fear-induced curfew that limits your freedom to walk in the streets at any time of day or night,” wrote British author Bernardine Evaristo on Twitter.

The member of parliament for Streatham, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, has publicly declared her support for this weekend’s socially distanced vigils on Twitter, calling for "women not to be silenced".

In a Tweet, Gemma Thomas said she planned to attend the vigil on Saturday for “for every women who’s ever been attacked, harassed or made to feel afraid".

“As women, we’re all fed up having to think about the list of potential risks involved in just walking home,” wrote Laura McCormack, 33, on Twitter.

“I think there is a real sense of, you know, enough is enough, we can't carry on like this, I'm tired of being afraid, and I'm tired of not being able to go out of my house and walk around the streets where I live,” said Ms Prowle, the Reclaim These Streets campaign organiser.

The Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party has publicly backed the nationwide vigils in memory of Sarah Everard, stating their “support of the right of every woman and girl to walk our streets without fear of violence.”

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