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Content Warning: Mention of sexual assault, sexual harassment and gender-based violence.

Sarah Everard did everything she was supposed to, yet, in the end, she was murdered by someone who was supposed to protect her, simply because she was a woman.

From a young age, we as women are put on the defensive. Ultimately, we are taught that sexual harassment, assault, rape and even murder will happen. It’s survival of the fittest, and you have to do everything you possibly can to make sure that you aren’t that inevitable victim. “Put your keys in between your fingers while you walk.” “Don’t walk home alone at night.” “Keep your eyes on your drink at all times.” These are only a few of the things that have been ingrained into our brains. Still, since 97 percent of all women will experience some form of sexual harassment, sexual assault or other gender-based violence in their lives, it’s quite clear that the current method of deterrence is not working.

Sarah Everard was a woman simply walking home from work in South London on the evening of March 3, 2021. She had no idea when she called her boyfriend that she would later be snatched from the street and murdered by an off-duty police officer. She had no idea that her future (alleged) murderer, Wayne Couzens, had been released and faced no professional or legal repercussions for an allegation of indecent exposure three days prior. Lastly, she had no idea of the global movement that her death would ignite.

Her story resonated with women worldwide, not only because they too were members of the 97 percent, but also because some of them also did everything they could to protect themselves, and the nightmare happened anyway. The hashtag “#97percent” has over 223.8 million views on TikTok, with mind-blowing amounts of women sharing their stories. They share tales of criminal justice system failures, men who believed they didn’t do anything wrong, being abused by those in positions of power, questions of what they were wearing when it happened and, most heartbreakingly of all, not being believed by those closest to them.

I have never met a woman who didn’t have their own story. We in the 97 percent are tired of being on the defensive. We are tired of watching our cases be dropped, not being believed, struggling to move on and seeing it happen over and over again. Some of us still had princesses painted on our walls when it happened. Some of us were simply walking into the grocery store. Some of us trusted the wrong person to keep us safe. But no matter the circumstances, it is none of our faults. The only ones to blame are the perpetrators, the men who took and did things they had no right to.

When the topic of the 97 percent arises, the typical response from men is, “Well, not all men act that way.” When instead, it should be accountability. Because almost every rapist, every sexual harasser and every man who commits gender-based violence have had at least one man in their life who could have intervened. The method of prevention should not be focused on protecting your daughters but rather on educating your sons. Did you know that out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, only five will result in the perpetrator going to jail or prison? They always say that lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice, but that’s not the case for survivors. Women who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to be victimized again than those in the remaining three percent are likely to be victimized for the first time. In the end, maybe it’s not all men who commit these crimes, but all men can help prevent them.

Flowers for Sarah Everard
Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona from Unsplash

As a society, we need to change our thinking, practices and even our legislation because it is all aimed at women’s expense. While it may not be a shiny political issue that is a fast-track ticket to reelection, ending violence against women is an issue that needs to be at the forefront of every politician and government’s agenda. It is an issue that will not resolve on its own, and if we wait too long, it will no longer be 97 percent, but instead 100 percent. 

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Taylor Gabrovic is a sophomore studying criminology and editing, writing, and media at Florida State University. She was born and raised for most of her life in Chapin, South Carolina, but her family has since relocated to Cape Coral, Florida. She owns and operates her own photography business that specializes in portraits and events. She adores Criminal Minds, Law and Order: SVU, football, southern cooking, sweet tea, Taylor Swift, and she still has hope that One Direction will have a reunion. To find out more about Taylor feel free to check out her Instagram @taylorgabs_
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