By: JoAnn Snavely
Trigger Warnings: mention of sexual assault, and sexual harassment
In the wake of the murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, a long-overdue women’s safety movement has been sparked. 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted before they even turn 25. 1 in 3 women will be physically or sexually abused by their significant other or spouse. As a new generation of powerful females is on the rise, these statistics are only getting more and more chilling. With stories of atrocious crimes being committed against women being brought to life, the need for a women’s safety movement has become more and more prevalent than ever before.
SARAH EVERARDS STORY
Sarah Everard’s murder sparked the beginning of a global outpour of support and reignited the decades-old fight for women’s safety. On the evening of March 3, 2021, 33-year-old Sarah Everard was simply walking to her home in South London when she was kidnapped and later found brutally murdered. Friday, her murderer was finally brought to justice. Sarah was killed by a 48-year old officer. She was killed by the people who are supposed to be protecting her. Her death brought the violence of women to the front-stands catching the attention and hearts of women all around the world. Women are now found yet again fighting for the right to be able to live their lives, this familiar yet heartbreaking tale is as old as time, yet it seems like it will be something we are forever fighting for.
THE EVENTS IN ATLANTA
Ever since the Covid-19 crisis, Asian hate has spiked, but this was brought to a forefront in wake of the recent murders of 8 people, 6 of which were Asian women. The fetishization of Asian women has been an issue for decades now, but when one man decides to murder 6 Asian women in cold blood because he wanted to “rid himself of sexual temptation” a line has been crossed. 21-year-old Aaron Long was charged with the murder of these 8 women and one count of aggravated assault connected to these gruesome crimes. These crimes were later defended simply because Long was “having a really bad day”.
All of these women were murdered by men who thought they could find justification behind their heinous crimes. Nowhere near enough attention is being brought to these literal hate crimes. Links to petitions will be put at the end of this article.
A study recently done by UN Women UK revealed that a total of 97 percent of women in the U.K. have been either sexually assaulted or harassed, and even more chillingly 96% of those women chose not to report the harassment/assault in the fear of not being taken seriously. Sexual assault is the most unreported crime because of the fear of invalidation. Ninety-seven percent of women have stories, stories waiting to be told, stories that can lead to immense amounts of trauma, all to just to be laughed at, victim-blamed, or not taken seriously? For years, men have dominated the world we live in, it’s always been a man’s world, but these statistics are simply NOT OK. How are these numbers being defended you may ask? Have you heard of the saying “boys will be boys?” I’m sure you have because for years it’s been used to validate female harassment specifically amongst teenage boys. A movement being used to counteract the women’s safety movement is the “Not All Men” movement. All this movement proves is that women can’t stand up for anything. If 97% of women are sharing experiences they’ve had with sexual assault/harassment and if men’s first reaction is to defend themselves by saying it’s “not all men” instead of trying to support women, it is all men. It is all men because all men know another male who’s hurt or sexually assaulted/harassed a woman and did absolutely nothing about it. Just because you’re a man and have done the bare minimum to not sexually harass or assault a woman does not mean it isn’t all men because men haven’t done their part to protect women, if they did these numbers would be much lower. Things like cat-calling, soliciting, making comments about a woman’s appearance, non-consensual acts, and sending unsolicited sexual messages or photos are some of the most common forms of sexual harassment. Defending this harassment because it’s just part of being a teen or because not all men do these things is absolutely not ok in any way, shape, or form. Women should not be afraid to walk down the street at night alone in fear of being kidnapped or assaulted. Women should not have to walk down the street being catcalled or stared at. Women shouldn’t be asked what they were wearing once they open up about their experiences with assault or harassment. We shouldn’t be constantly walking on eggshells just to live our lives.
“BOYS WILL BE BOYS”
It has become a part of culture for “boys to be boys”, and that saying is light-hearted and fun when boys are mischievous and track mud in the house or make a mess at the dinner table. However, when we are still using that saying as an excuse for boys to make comments about women’s bodies/appearances, to make sexual advances, unsolicitedly touch or grope women, this saying isn’t as light-hearted as it initially was. It becomes harmful when it’s used to excuse these behaviors as it normalizes the behaviors all because they are “a part of boyhood”. If these boys are being raised consistently told through the media and their parents that it’s just a part of being a boy and treating it like a right-of-passage for many, yet still we tell fathers to protect their daughters and that these situations are the female or victims’ fault. The issue isn’t protecting their daughters, no the issue is educating your son. Why should fathers have to put their daughters in self-defense classes? Why should women have to follow a buddy system just to go out? Why should we have to have pepper spray or other self-defense mechanisms on us in order to walk the streets alone at night? Most importantly, after all of these precautions that we have to make just to make it through walking down the street, AND FINALLY WHY ARE THESE NUMBERS SO HIGH. Because it has gone beyond just being a boy, now it has become a matter of excusing sexual assault/harassment and trying to shift the blame off of the abusers.
DEAR THE 97%
If you or anyone you know is a part of the 97%, this part of the article is for you. Your story is valid, it deserves to be told. You are valid. Your experiences are valid. Your experiences don’t make you any less of a person. Your story is not your fault, it never will be. You are so strong. Dear 97% I am so sorry, you don’t deserve to be a part of that statistic. You are not defined by that stastistic.
There are many things we as a world can do to help promote women’s safety. Signing petitions and advocating for laws against gender inequality, and laws to properly punish sexual assault abusers and harassers is always an amazing way to try and help, there will be links to petitions at the end of the article. Educating the men in your life about sexual assault and how to properly ask for consent promotes women’s safety and avoids these situations before they begin. What can we as women do to protect ourselves? Many apps such as Life 360 are helpful to download with a few friends, letting someone know when you go out, and calling someone if you are walking alone are some amazing ways to protect yourself when necessary.