In the last week, while so many people took to social media to speak out about Sarah Everard’s disappearance and all that it symbolises, I stayed silent.
So much was being said, and I was drowning in it. But the thoughts, feelings and fears that have lived with me since I was a girl slowly began to simmer, bubbling up to the surface — to this.
When the news broke, I was surprised at how much attention it was getting — and to be honest, I was frustrated that it was all over my social media feeds.
Women are always in danger, cis or trans, and I didn’t want to be reminded of that everywhere I looked. My own exhaustion of existing as a woman made me disengage and step back.
I was also struggling with the white privilege tied up in it all.
While Sarah deserves every bit of attention her disappearance and death have been given, I couldn’t help but wonder if a woman of colour would be awarded the same. Media frenzy, public attention and the police response to tragedies such as this play out differently for people of colour, if at all.
Speaking out for Sarah
It was the involvement of a police officer that pulled me out of my completely unhelpful but wholly self-preservative disengagement.
The police… Another exhausting topic. An industry of very normal and obviously flawed people paid to keep us safe, who instead target people of colour, fail to protect the LGTBQ community and continually fail to protect or to listen to women. All while showing a complete disregard for the thriving misogyny on our streets and the rising hate crimes experienced by communities they are meant to keep safe.
The older I get, the more exhausting it all is. I find myself slowly losing hope for change in my lifetime, and instead hoping that it’ll all be watered down over generations — or until we lose the planet to climate change at the hands of self-preserving governments, big business and a greed-driven society.
But that’s another conversation, so let’s return to Sarah.
What happened to her is the reason we tell someone when we’re coming home, the reason we share our live location on WhatsApp, the reason we pretend to listen to music or put keys between our fingers or pay for a two-minute cab journey rather than walking for 10 minutes alone at night.
As the outrage rumbled on, men turned to social media to ask what they could do.
To those men I ask, where have you been? You already knew we were in danger.
“For women, enemy territory is earth.”
This is something David ‘Sideman’ Whitely (@sidemanallday) said in an IGTV video made in response to Sarah’s death — and boy did it strike a chord with me.
We live in enemy territory, and it is exhausting. We cannot keep ourselves safe from society and a systemic culture that continues to reinforce ideas of mental, physical and sexual dominance, while also trying to teach men what they’ve already had decades to learn.
Women must continue to assume it is all men, because right now there is no way to tell the difference.
So crossing the road away from women at night is all well and good, but until men call each other out for disrespectful or aggressive behaviour — whether when discussing women or when with women — nothing will change.
And while I don’t applaud the men now asking how to help, I’m glad they’re here because, unfortunately, we need them.
If Sarah’s death can bring us anything, it can remobilise our army and bring new recruits over from enemy lines.
This week I joined the battleground a little late, but I have been fighting this war for 30 years.
I’m tired and I’m sad, but I’m still here.
So what next?
Speak up, use social media, protest and, if you’re a man, call your friends out and always assume they are capable of harassing and abusing women.
You can submit your experiences to inform the UK government’s Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy here.
While the Black Lives Matter momentum continues, and feminist efforts become reinvigorated by Sarah’s death, we need to make sure the two intertwine.
Blessing Olusegun was a 21-year-old woman of colour who went missing in Sussex in September 2020 and was found drowned. Police are not treating it as suspicious, despite the fact Blessing had been on the phone to her boyfriend while walking and asked him to stay on the line — which many believe indicates she was frightened of someone nearby. It is being investigated, but signing this petition puts pressure on the police to do a thorough investigation and find answers for her family: sign the petition.
The government is trying to take away our freedom to protest by giving police “sweeping powers to take non-violent protests that have a significant disruptive effect” — the exact thing protests are meant to do to force change. Police will be able to target anyone, in groups at a protest or individuals all alone, for the following reasons: noise, unease, serious annoyance, and inconvenience. Sign this petition to protect your freedom to protest: netpol.org/charter/
Sign this petition to make public sexual harassment a crime in the UK. I don’t need to explain why: change.org
Where to get help and support in the UK
Beyond the Streets
Beyond the Streets provides a confidential call back service for women who are involved in prostitution and want to explore possible alternatives.
Telephone: 0800 133 7870 (call back service)
Galop runs a specialist helpline for LGBT+ people who have experienced hate crime, domestic abuse or sexual violence.
Telephone: 0800 999 5428 (Monday-Friday 10am-5pm, Wednesday-Thursday 10am-8pm)
Karma Nirvana support victims of so called ‘honour-based’ abuse and forced marriage. They operate a national helpline to support victims and professionals.
Telephone: 0800 599 9247 (Monday-Friday 9am-5pm)
Male Survivors Alliance
The Male Survivors Alliance provides help and information to male victims/survivors or sexual abuse, rape and sexual exploitation.
The National Male Survivors helpline is 0808 800 5005.
The helpline is available Mon-Weds 9am-5pm, Thurs 8am-8pm, Fri 9am-5pm, Sat 10am-2pm.There is also a text service and online chat function available via Safeline here- https://www.safeline.org.uk/contact-us/
Mankind offer support to male victims of domestic abuse. Their helpline provides both emotional support and practical information.
Telephone: 01823 334 244 (Monday-Friday 10am-4pm).
NAPAC (National Association for People Abused in Childhood)
NAPAC offers support to adult survivors of all types of childhood abuse, including physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect. They offer a range of resources for survivors, as well as those who care for and work with them.
Telephone: 0808 801 0331 (Monday-Thursday 10am-9pm and Friday 10am–6pm)
National Domestic Abuse Helpline (run by Refuge)
Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline provides free, confidential support 24 hours a day to victims of domestic abuse and those who are worried about friends or loved ones.
Telephone: 0808 2000 247 (24 hours a day)
Email (via website): https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/Contact-us
NSPCC / Childline
The NSPCC helpline is staffed by trained professionals who can provide expert advice and support. If you are concerned about a child, if you’re a parent or carer looking for advice, or if you’re a professional in need of information and guidance.
Whatever your worry – call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, email, or submit the online form . They also have advice about spotting the signs of abuse. You can call Monday to Friday 8am – 10pm or 9am – 6pm at the weekends. It’s free and you don’t have to say who you are.
Childline offers free, confidential advice and support whatever your worry, whenever you need help. Counsellors are available to talk to by calling 0800 1111 or via 121 chat between 7.30am and 3.30am every day.
Rape Crisis England and Wales
Rape Crisis Centres provide specialist support and services to women and girls who have experienced sexual violence. The Rape Crisis National Helpline offers free, confidential emotional support and information.
Telephone: 0808 802 9999 (every day between 12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm)
Rape Crisis Live Chat: Live Chat is a free, text-based support service. For more information please go to https://rapecrisis.org.uk/get-help/want-to-talk/
Respect is a domestic abuse organisation which runs a confidential helpline for men and women who are harming their partners and families, as well as a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and those supporting them.
Revenge Porn Helpline
The helpline is a UK service supporting adults (aged 18+) who are experiencing intimate image abuse, also known as, revenge porn.
Due to concerns around the Coronavirus outbreak, the Helpline will be operating an email only service for the time being, therefore voicemail messages may not be responded to immediately.
Please contact by email on firstname.lastname@example.org open Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm.
Safeline’s National Male Survivor Helpline is a dedicated service for men and boys in England and Wales affected by rape or sexual abuse and those that support them such as friends and family.
Telephone: 0808 800 5005 (Monday, Wednesday and Friday 9am-5pm, Tuesday and Thursday 8am-8pm and Saturday 10am-2pm)
Email (via website): https://www.safeline.org.uk/contact-us/
Southall Black Sisters
Southall Black Sisters specialise in domestic and gender related violence, including forced marriage and ‘honour-based’ abuse. They provide specialist advice, information, casework, advocacy, counselling and self-help support services in several languages.
Telephone: 0208 571 9595 (Monday to Friday from 9-5pm)
Email (via website): https://southallblacksisters.org.uk/contact-us/
Stay Safe East
Stay Safe East provides specialist and holistic advocacy and support services to disabled people who are victims and survivors of domestic or sexual violence.
Telephone: 0208 519 7241
National Male Support Service – SurvivorsUK
SurvivorsUK support men, boys, trans and nonbinary survivors of sexual violence. They offer one to one counselling, ISVA services, and an online helpline.
Website: www.survivorsuk.org (Monday-Sunday 12pm-8pm)
Suzy Lamplugh Trust
Suzy Lamplugh Trust run the National Stalking Helpline, which gives practical information, support, and advice to victims of stalking, their friends, family, and professionals working with victims.
Telephone: 0808 802 0300 (9:30am-4pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 1pm-4pm Wednesday)
Email (via website): https://www.suzylamplugh.org/forms/national-stalking-helpline-enquiry-form
The Survivors Trust
The Survivors Trust provides confidential information, advice and support for people who have experienced rape and sexual violence.
Telephone: 0808 801 0818 (Monday-Friday: 10am-8:30pm, Saturday from 10am-12:30pm, 1:30pm-4:30pm and 6pm-8:30pm and Sunday from 1:30pm-4:30pm and 6pm-8:30pm)
Women’s Aid provides support for women who are experiencing or have experienced physical, mental, sexual or domestic violence or abuse.
Live Web Chat: https://chat.womensaid.org.uk/ (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am-12pm)
Bawso is an all Wales voluntary organisation providing specialist services to black and minority ethnic (BME) women and children made homeless through domestic abuse. Bawso’s work extends to providing support to BME women confronted with forced marriage, FGM and so called ‘honour-based’ abuse.
Telephone: 0800 7318147 (24hr)
Dyn Wales Helpline
The Safer Wales Dyn Helpline provides free confidential support to men who experience domestic abuse in Wales.
Telephone: 0808 801 0321 (Monday and Tuesday 10-4pm, Wednesday 10-1pm)