Words by Emily Jayne Bruce – Staff Writer
Trigger warning for male violence, violence against women, death.
As time has passed since Sarah Everard was murdered, the public has become more aware of how much Sarah and other victims of men’s violence, have been systematically failed.
On average a woman is murdered in the UK every 3 days, usually by a partner, ex-partner or family member, but the government response is not sufficient for the scale of violence that women and girls are experiencing.
What happened to Sarah is called Femicide – the murder of a women by a man because of her gender. It’s important we use the word ‘femicide’, rather than ‘murder’ or ‘homicide’ because we need the government to take seriously the risks women face, simply for being women. We urgently need solutions that tackle the root causes of men’s violence, not women’s behaviour.
Femicide is never an isolated incident, and there are various other forms of social, personal, structural violence embedded and normalized in our society, that ultimately lead up to serious crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, and femicide.
It came to light that Couzens, who kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah on 3rd March 2021, had been reported for indecent exposure only days earlier. Further news reports revealed that he was nicknamed “the rapist” by former colleagues, which HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Tom Winsor confirmed in a statement on September 30th, noting that it was known by some officers. Police also confirmed the allegations reported in The Guardian (among other news sources) that he had previously driven around in his car naked from the waist down, shocking the public – how did this man become, and stay, a police officer?
This tragedy has sparked a wider debate around whether misogynistic culture is to blame, with many female police officers coming forward with evidence of the misogyny they have experienced from male colleagues in the force. On October 5th, Boris Johnson demanded “radical change” in how the criminal justice system deals with violence against women; paradoxically, on the same day the PM declined to back a legal change to allow misogyny to be prosecuted as a hate crime.
In a separate statement made October 5th, Priti Patel admitted that the tragic death of Sarah Everard exposed “unimaginable failures in policing”. She announced a probe on ‘missed chances’ and insists that those targeting women and girls will feel the ‘full force of the law’. This is a big statement, given that in the year to March 2020, only around 1.4% of reported rapes result in any charges, according to BBC News article ‘Why are rape prosecutions falling?’. Further, the director of End Violence Against Women Coalition, Andrea Simon, said that most women, pre-Covid, were waiting over 2 years for court case hearings – it would seem, women’s safety is not a priority within the law.
This new inquiry will examine the missed opportunities leading up to Couzens’ conviction and will also consider wider issues around policing such as vetting practices, professional standards and discipline, as well as workplace behaviour. It’s a small start in tackling men’s violence against women and girls – let’s hope the progress continues and rolls out investigations and education across every organization, institution and school.
Photo by Tim Dennell, Flickr.com