Mar 17, 2021
Beyond the Streets have been working in the violence against women and girls charity sector since 1999. We were horrified and saddened to see the unfolding news of the shocking murder of Sarah Everard. We want to send our love and sympathies to Sarah’s family, who must be experiencing the most unspeakable kind of grief and trauma.
Sadly – as many women have been highlighting over the past weeks – our experience is that violence against women and girls is deeply embedded in our culture. We speak with women on a daily basis who are suffering. They tell us of violent attacks, of rapes, of verbal, emotional and physical abuse, and of sexual exploitation. Our team come alongside each brave and brilliant woman to support and encourage her towards her own empowerment and a better future, on her terms. But there is much to be done to uproot the structural inequalities in our culture.
We hope that Sarah Everard’s legacy is for us all to take an honest and revealing look at how gendered violence plays out in our society. The shocking fact is that the experience of violence – catcalling, flashing, groping, rape and so on – is a common theme that links all women. The vigil on Saturday night represented this shared experience and it was a moving reminder that sisterhood comes from acknowledging this violence and standing together, in grief and sadness. We stand for our rights as women, as human beings, to be able to be free to live our lives in the way we want to – the freedom to do even simple things like walk where we want, when we want.
We also recognise that women are murdered more frequently than we get to hear about. It’s a sad truth that the media attention rightly given to this shocking event isn’t always given to some kinds of women. So we also want to acknowledge all the women who have died without making the news – perhaps women of a different class, who are older, a different racial profile, in a different location, or those who were selling sex or addicted to drugs. Violence against ANY woman is wrong and repulsive, and yet violence against ALL women is pervasive, irrespective of sexual orientation, race, age, class and so on. This affects all women, and we stand together as sisters.
How do we make a difference, in the light of this tragic event which has highlighted for many people the depth of violence against women in our society? There is no easy solution, but there are some actions we can take – individually and collectively – to work for change in the future. For women, we need to work together to lift each other up and empower. Amplify our voices – those of women of all kinds. Share our experiences bravely. Talk about the culture openly, with our friends, family and our children. Men can make sure they listen to the women around them and learn how they can be better allies. Parents can teach our boys consent, kindness, and respect.
We can support women’s charities, working with women on the frontline – whether it’s working with women who are sexually exploited as Beyond the Streets does, or charities who work with survivors of domestic abuse or rape. Women’s charities rely on supporters to be able to do this invaluable work. We can feed into government consultations, such as the recently reopened Violence Against Women and Girls call for evidence and lobby our MPs for greater support for women. We can follow women’s organisations and charities on social media, as they often share ways to get involved, whether it’s protests, celebrations or actions. Let’s take our rage and our sadness and remember Sarah Everard by working together for positive change in the future.