UNIVERSITY of Worcester chiefs have called for urgent action to tackle violence against women in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard and subsequent protests across the country.
Ms Everard went missing while walking home from a friend’s house on March 3.
Her body was later found in woodland in Kent and Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has been charged with the marketing executive’s kidnap and murder. He will stand trial in October.
A vigil in Ms Everard’s memory on Clapham Common made the headlines after the Metropolitan Police sought to uphold Coronavirus restrictions but were criticised for the response by campaigners for their approach.
The University is deeply committed to tackling all forms of violence and abuse and has been at the forefront of research and education for more than a decade. The University’s Bystander Intervention Programme has seen hundreds of students trained to spot and intervene in matters of violence or harassment.
Dr Gill Harrop, Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology, who runs the Bystander Intervention Programme, said:
“Women are taught from a young age it’s our responsibility to spot the risks and protect ourselves from harm, whether that means holding our keys between our fingers as we walk home, not walking alone in the dark, not drinking too much.
“The list of ‘don’ts’ goes on and on, and the upshot is the blame ends up being placed firmly on women to keep ourselves safe, rather than on the perpetrators of the violence.
“It took only minutes after her disappearance was reported in the press for questions to appear online about why she was walking on her own at night, as if she was somehow to blame for what happened to her.
“The public outcry to Sarah’s case, and the rejection of the victim blaming surrounding it have sent a clear message: women and girls want to be safe from abuse or harassment, and stop the victim blaming.
“We need to shift the focus from the victim’s actions to instead look at the perpetrators’ behaviour and the violent actions that they chose to take.
“But of course, this cannot just be a women’s problem. It has to be raised and discussed by men as well, in order to acknowledge the problem, and commit to stepping up and speaking out against misogyny, violence and abuse.
“The responsibility is on all of us to call out problematic behaviour, not just those affected by it.”
A post-mortem examination has taken place but no cause of death has been released.
An inquest into the death of Ms Everard is likely to be opened later this week, Kent County Council has said.
EDITOR’S COMMENT: WE all need to do better.
All of us have a role to play in making this country a better place. For too long we’ve refused to acknowledge the problems staring us in the face.
Let’s be clear, the only wrong committed here was the one which saw Sarah’s life to come to a premature end.
I’ve read numerous heart-breaking and horrifying accounts of real-life experiences of women in recent days and applaud everyone who has shared these upsetting encounters.
As a man I have a choice; be ‘offended’ at being cast in the same category as those who perpetrate such acts or be part of the solution.
Instead of a hashtag defending our gender, listen to the testimonies being shared and ask yourself, can I do more?
As fathers can we do more to ensure our sons grow up to respect women, as employees can we look at the language of the workplace, as men can we understand the real fears faced by women on a daily basis.
She was just walking home – let us never forget that. May she forever rest in peace