Details of Sarah Everard case heighten women’s sense of despair | UK news

This week, as the grim details about what happened to Sarah Everard in her final hours were revealed at the Old Bailey, there has been a sense of despair among women, and the campaigners pushing to make society safer for them.

The hope that Everard’s murder would bring about rapid change has all but evaporated. On 18 September, nearly seven months after the 33-year-old was killed, a member of the public found the body of the schoolteacher Sabina Nessa in Cator Park, south-east London.

In between the two deaths another 80 women were killed in the UK, according to Karen Ingala Smith of the Counting Dead Women project. That brings the total for 2021, which she is sure is an underestimate, to at least 109.

“After Sarah was killed there was a big outcry and people said it felt like a sea change, but I just I can’t see it like that,” she said.

“In between Sarah and Sabina, there were so many women killed and we don’t have a huge outpouring of anger and empathy and grief for everyone. As a society we seem to find these deaths as somehow acceptable.”

She noted that while sentencing Wayne Couzens, Lord Justice Fulford had called Everard “a wholly blameless victim”, suggesting an implicit victim-blaming of other women killed at the hands of men. “It’s only last year that West Yorkshire police apologised to families of previous victims of Peter Sutcliffe for referring to his fifth victim as ‘innocent’ in 1977; and yet here [it is said] again,” she said.

Murders by strangers attract much greater attention than the stories of women killed by someone they know, even though they are significantly less common. ONS figures show 23 women killed by a stranger in England and Wales in the year to March 2020 compared with 12 in 2019 and 31 the year before that.

But the total number of women killed in the year ending March 2019 showed an annual increased of 10%, from 220 to 241, the second consecutive annual increase. It was the highest number since 2006. According to 2018 ONS data, 33% of female homicide victims were killed by partners or ex-partners, compared with 1% of male victims. ONS homicide figures to March 2020 continue to show that an average of three women a fortnight are killed by their partner or ex-partner, according to Women’s Aid.

Those deaths are just a fraction of the violent incidents faced by women in the UK. The last year saw a global and national increase in domestic violence, and an increase in rape reports, even as the number of prosecutions has collapsed.

The most recent report from the End Violence Against Women coalition (EVAW) states that almost one in three women in England and Wales will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, while more than half a million women are raped or sexually assaulted each year.

“I think there’s a sort of worrying hierarchy at times between crimes where the perpetrator is not known to you and when they are, which is obviously the majority of cases,” said Andrea Simon, the director of the End Violence Against Women coalition.

Jess Phillips, the shadow domestic violence minister, said there had been a societal change – but it had come from women and their allies. “In the cases of both Sarah and Sabina, the response of women in the country has been to pivot it to be about violence against women and girls more broadly,” she says. “It’s not about an obsession with stranger danger. It’s just like, this is the crap we have to put up with. We live in constant fear.”

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