By Siga Sakho
Image via The New Yorker
TW: talks of death and sexual assault
Throughout a girl’s life, stories such as the tragic death of Sarah Everard and many other cases like hers create and demonstrate the sad reality faced by women across the world. With new terms arising on social media platforms such as “the 97%”, “protect the 3%” and “not all men, but almost all women,” it has become increasingly clear that women have been taken advantage of regardless of age, location, and clothing at the time of their assault. Any form of sexual assault can happen to anyone.
According to The New Yorker, on March 3rd in the UK, Sarah Everard was abducted and later killed by Metropolitan policeman Wayne Couzens while she was on a fifty-minute walk home from a friend’s house. It was reported that she had done what l all women are told to do when walking alone at night. She took the long route home so she could walk down well-lit streets in a heavy traffic area with many people around, she wore bright-colored clothing and shoes she could run in, and she even checked in with her boyfriend for her safety. However, none of this was enough. On March 10th, Everard’s distorted body would be discovered in a builder’s bag in woodland Ashford with the use of her dental records since her body was unrecognizable. It was later found that Wayne Couzens would be found responsible for her death. Couzens was then charged with kidnapping and murder and is set to face trial on October 25th according to The Guardian.
When reflecting on Everard’s murder, I am shocked and horrified that society has normalized women having to follow rules that males don’t necessarily even think about in order to simply walk home safely at night. Women shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable going outside in the dark with the fear that they could be abducted, killed, or assaulted always in the back of their minds. This normalization of the fear and danger that women face is something that Labour Party member of parliament Jess Phillips commented on after the death of Everard. In an article by The New Yorker Philips said, “Dead women is a thing we have all just accepted as part of our daily lives”. Philips, like many other like-minded people, has witnessed the unsettling and honest truth of how society is run. Young women and girls go missing and it’s just a matter of time until you or someone else you know might turn up in the headlines of a well-known newspaper as being pronounced missing or even worse-killed.
As Sarah Everard’s death shocked millions throughout the world and as stories and new details were revealed to the public, individuals took to social media to express their feelings in regards to her death as well as plan a vigil to mourn the loss of life. Throughout platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, the term “the 97%” and “protect the 3%” has been floating around as individuals were sharing their experience with sexual assault. Not only was it shocking to see so many people speaking out and sharing their experience, but the young age demographic was also disturbing. as Teenage girls were telling the world how they had been raped, sent unwanted photos, catcalled, or made to feel uncomfortable. When looking in the comment section of these videos, thousands agreed to feeling the same way, expressing sympathy or showing how they too have experienced the same unspeakable things. Something else that was often commented on these videos was “protect the 3%,” which is a statistic representing the small percentage of women who have not been sexually assaulted. In the various TikTok comment sections, this 3% group was suddenly seen as rare and lucky to be a part of as they have not faced some of the harsh realities that a majority of females have gone through.
It’s sad that our society has made it so that not being sexually assaulted makes you lucky and privileged over many who were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. Equally, it is long overdue for society to pay attention to what is happening to females and be aware that violence against females should not be normalized. The societal tendency to simply sweep these injustices under the rug and never acknowledge them should not be tolerated. As Flannery O'Connor once said, "Truth does not change on our ability to stomach it." Until the world can address this issue head-on, real change will not be made and the millions of stories similar to that of Everard’s will be repeated time and time again.
Written by writer Siga Sakho