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‘After the Glitter Fades’: Why we Must Never let the Dust Settle on Conversations About Sexual Assault

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at KCL chapter.

I’m sure you’ve seen a hundred variations of this article over the past two weeks. However, I think it’s important to keep this conversation going, especially now that the dust seems to be settling. 

Women – and other people who experience misogyny – are still scared. We’re still tired, angry, and heartbroken; even though the social media rage has died down. It’s a perpetual pattern of: shocking event, two to three days of online outrage, and then everything returns to normal. As a survivor of sexual assault, it’s as if the whole world is going about their day-to-day existence, whilst your feet are stuck in cement. 

How the Metropolitan Police handled a vigil for a woman murdered by one of their own, has encapsulated our deepest fears; in such situations, where do we go? Who do we turn to? With rape convictions at a record low, with 2,102 prosecutions for 58,856 reported cases as of March 2020, it’s no wonder that we’d lose faith in the systems which allege to protect us. What we saw at the vigil was essentially state-sanctioned violence against women, with government officials defending the officers’ actions, and rejecting calls for Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, to resign

In light of these calls for both Dick and Patel to resign, many have taken to accusing women of sexism. This cult of “girls supporting girls” is a dangerous brand of pink-washed “girl boss” feminism which shoots down any justified criticism of other women as a blatant attack on women as a whole. It declares that in, rightfully, critiquing women who often uphold patriarchal systems, we damage the feminist cause. This in itself is a product of misogyny; the patriarchy wants us to believe that we cannot question other women, especially those who ratify its status quo because it inhibits our subversion of its systems. It’s essential to maintain that the existence of women in positions of power is not inherently feminist – figures like Patel damage the cause of empowerment, far more than they advance it.

Stories such as Sarah’s are, sadly, nothing new – especially to people of colour, trans people, sex workers, and other communities historically targeted by police powers. Sarah Everard’s death serves as a reminder of the very real and pervasive threat to our safety. I can’t say that I’ve ever felt overwhelmingly safe walking down the street, but each time that I open the Instagram app, I’m bombarded with messages which reinforces these fears.

Social media is a never-ending stream of survivors recounting their traumas, in the hope of somehow ‘justifying’ their anger and fears to those who refuse to acknowledge the devastating effects of a patriarchal system that allows people to be so utterly stripped of their humanity. I think it’s important to remember that you do not owe ANYONE your stories. You do not need to justify your frustration and upset to strangers online, in the form of recounting traumatic events. There seems to be this sinister notion that if we just keep throwing our experiences at a wall, it’ll somehow stick. I know, from personal experience, that this isn’t the case. Conserve your energy, because people seem less willing to discuss the damaging aftermath of reliving some of your worst moments, only to have them invalidated. 


Michelle Ding
Michelle Ding / Unsplash

At Sunday’s protest in Scotland Yard and Parliament Square, organisers from Sisters Uncut read the names of all of the women and girls who had been killed in the past twelve months, where a man had been charged or convicted as the principal perpetrator. 118 names were readout. Davina McColl in a tweet said how:

Female abduction / murder is extremely rare. Yes we should all be vigilant when out alone. But this level of fear-mongering isn’t healthy. And men’s mental health is an issue as well. Calling all men out as dangerous is bad for our sons, brothers, partners.

“Female abduction/murder is extremely rare” – unfortunately, it’s extremely common. Common enough that one in four people killed are women. Around 57% of women are murdered by someone they know, usually a partner or an ex-partner. A shocking statistic from a YouGov poll found that 97% of women aged between 18 and 24 had been victims of sexual harassment. All of this begs the question of: why is nothing being done?


For me, everyday acts of harassment seem to be more difficult to process. I’ve had experiences of being cat-called a shocking number of times within a short timeframe. It leaves you feeling like you want to disappear – as if minding your business on the street is to have a neon sign reading “please objectify my body!” radiating above your head. This exhausting, seemingly endless onslaught of low-level street harassment emboldens and enables awful cases like Sarah Everard’s. When (mostly) men face no repercussions for misogynistic actions, it seems to breed a sense of invincibility. Coupled with the toxic mentality of ‘lad culture’, where men blindly defend other men regardless of the situation and their relationship (or, often, lack of), it creates a breeding ground for an absence of accountability.

Whilst conversations about rape culture and misogyny are paramount to dismantling their omnipresent social composition, they are useless if not followed through. One week of Instagram outrage will change nothing. To truly challenge and change anything, we must continue to support Grassroots campaigns and advocate for increased education around the topic. It is essential that children are taught about consent and respect from a young age, with calls for education systems to implement these programmes (you can sign a petition here on mandatory lessons on sexual assault within PSHE programmes). 

This conversation seems to be eternal. Despite a resurgence every few years, the situation appears to be worsening, rather than improving. As someone I met at a protest this week said to me: ‘perhaps the change won’t come in our generation… but I’m hopeful for the next’. 


Emily is originally from Wales, but is a first year English Literature and French undergrad at King's College. She adores art history and can be found walking round museums, watching documentaries and reading about Artemisia Gentileschi in her spare time. Her favourite hobby is visiting London parks and pretending she’s still in Wales.