Right now, we all need to talk about Sarah Everard.
I first found out about Everard’s tragic death from a Tiktok that showed up on my page. I wish I learned about her sooner than I did. Everard was a 33-year-old British woman who went missing on March 3 after leaving a friend’s house. On March 9, a Metropolitan police officer—Wayne Couzens—was picked up regarding her disappearance. He has since been arrested and charged with her kidnapping and murder.
Many words can describe who Sarah Everard was. She was a daughter, a sister, a partner and a marketing executive. Most of all, she was a person. She was a woman. There’s only so much we can learn about her from a news story or tributes from her family. We will never be able to meet this person who seems like a wonderful woman. It’s a shame that people are only learning about her name now, after her body was found.
It’s heartbreaking that yet another woman had to die for people to start talking about the struggles that feminine-presenting individuals have to go through, especially at night. feminine-presenting individuals have to question every man that walks by them. They have to hold pepper spray or keys between their fingers and stay alert. Everard did all of that. Everard did “everything right.” She called her partner before she left her friend’s house, wore bright clothes and stayed close to the streetlights; however, it still wasn’t enough.
As Everard’s story and others flooded social media, some people—mainly men—took offense. Instead of listening to the stories on Twitter and other social media, #NotallMen began trending, completely disregarding these stories and dishonoring Everard’s name. This hashtag proves that men still have a long way to go. It’s disgusting and disheartening that people would stomp all over the death of a woman because their ego couldn’t handle it. People whose first instinct is to say “not all men” are a danger to society. The men who stay silent are a part of the problem too, if not worse.
Despite the “notallmen” hashtag, support and condolences for Everard’s family and friends spread across social media. People have been raising awareness for the violence against feminine-presenting individuals. Many organizations have stepped up, such as Reclaim These Streets who organized a vigil to honor Everard that was switched to a virtual presentation due to COVID and a “lack of constructive engagement from the Metropolitan police.” In other words, the police pulled their support for the memorial. Yet, on March 14, mourners still chose to meet in-person. Regardless of whether an in-person gathering was safe or “right,” the actions of the police need to be examined.
At the memorial, Metropolitan police arrested mourners because they supposedly broke COVID protocols, and the photos went viral. People questioned the actions and decisions of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, even going as far as to ask her to step down. Many people want the entire night to be re-examined, and rightfully so. The Metropolitan police not only canceled the memorial, but they arrested those who still showed up for Everard and destroyed the memorial.
There are so many questions surrounding the vigil. Why couldn’t the police just ask people to leave instead? Was it really necessary to arrest people who wanted to share their support for a woman that one of their own murdered? They were just people who wanted to share their voices in the small way they could. It wasn’t a protest; the police shouldn’t have arrested people, especially in such a violent manner.
One clear outcome from this event, though, is that people are angry because the police interfered with a peaceful crowd. Many feel as though the police should be bridging the gap because a Metropolitan police officer with a history of indecent exposure allegedly murdered Everard. Some police officers, who should be protecting Everard and others from violent crimes, are actually committing them. This is not a new fact, as evident by the Black Lives Matter movement. Many people do not trust the police.
If you need to be convinced by numbers, look at these facts. Looking across the globe, 35 percent of women have experienced sexual assault. Less than 40 percent of women seek help. Less than 10 percent go to the police. Survivors are scared to report for many reasons, including fear that the police will not believe them. Although Everard’s cause of death has not been released, people believe that her story will finally create change.
Considering the opposition to every action taken to honor Everard and her story, change isn’t happening overnight. From #notallmen to the Metropolitan police, there’s still a long way to go. However, since the first Tiktok I saw, I’ve seen several more Gallo about Everard and her story. I’ve seen more feminine-presenting individuals come forward about their own sexual assault. Despite living in the United States, it’s important to stay informed about what’s going on across the world and fight for change in our backyard.
Everard’s story needs to be told because she is the picture of a woman who should be alive right now. As mentioned earlier, Everard did “everything right.” When will we no longer have to make videos about how to hold a key in your fist late at night? What will it take for men, police officers and whoever else feels it’s okay for a woman to have to do “everything right” to finally understand that we won’t feel safe?
As many say, it shouldn’t be about teaching women how to behave so they won’t be attacked. Rather, it should be about teaching men not to attack women. As society finally learns that this needs to change, we must honor Everard and all of the others who are no longer with us. We must listen to the stories of survivors. And we must educate ourselves and speak up when we can.