LONDON (UK) – Rage over the murder of Londoner Sarah Everard should be focused onto efforts to prevent men’s violence against women, rather than political arguments about police tactics at a vigil, said one of the women arrested at the event on Monday.
Everard, 33, was abducted as she walked home in south London on March 3 and a police officer has been charged with her kidnap and murder. This has led to a national debate over how British society has dealt with male violence against women.
The head of the force, Cressida Dick, dismissed calls for her resignation despite intense pressure over the ugly scenes, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had full confidence in her.
Patsy Stevenson, who was pictured being pinned to the ground, handcuffed and arrested by male officers in dramatic images, said, “I accidentally went viral. I didn’t want this to happen. This happened like a whirlwind.”
“I’ve been thrown into the public eye and the only way I can make this not in vain is to not make it political, not against the police. It’s just about the safety of women and we need to talk about it,” she said.
An estimated 85,000 women are raped and more than 400,000 sexually assaulted in England and Wales each year. What has to be noted is that only a tiny fraction of incidents leading to criminal convictions.
As per most recent figures the conviction rate per rape allegation recorded by the police was 2.6%, a record low.
Since Everard’s disappearance, many women have taken to social media recalling their own experiences of harassment and assault on Britain’s streets and pushing for change.
Interior minister Priti Patel told parliament, “Too many of us have walked home from school or work alone, only to hear footsteps uncomfortably close behind us. Too many of us have clutched our keys in our fists in case we needed to defend ourselves, and that is not OK.”
The government has received 78,000 new responses to its appeal for evidence on violence against women, which was reopened on Friday in light of the reaction to the Everard case.
“That is completely unprecedented and considerably more than the 18,000 responses received over the entire 10-week period when the survey was previously opened,” said Patel.
She said the responses would help determine a new government strategy on dealing with violence against women.
One of Everard’s friends, Helena Edwards, said the case had been “hijacked” by people with an agenda.
“Sarah was a victim of one of the most horrific crimes imaginable. She was extremely unlucky – that is all there is to it,” Edwards wrote in a blog, adding that if the suspect was found guilty, she would hold him alone responsible.