Don’t walk alone at night. Dress conservatively. Don’t draw attention to yourself.
This, amongst other condescending advice, is what is often told to women when they ask what they can do to protect themselves. But why? Why is it that in the 21st-century women are still indirectly blamed for crimes against them? Why do they have to take extra precautions to ensure their safety?
After the murder of Ashling Murphy in February 2021, we all swore ‘never again’ and ‘not one more’. We mourned for her, cried ‘she was just on a run’, and plastered her face all over social media. Then, like clockwork, we moved on – her name not to be uttered again until a convenient time.
Then, only two months later, Sarah Everard was subjected to the same fate. ‘Never again’, ‘not one more’, ‘she was only walking home’. And, as quickly as it started, the social media frenzy subsided. These women, and the hundreds of others like them, deserve more than to be a passing fad or cautionary tale for young girls who go out alone.
A 2022 Femicide Census survey found that “during the last decade a woman was killed by a man every three days, while a woman is killed by a former or current partner every four days in the UK.”
The statistics show that the UK government’s promises to do more to combat the issue of violence against women are empty, as little to no action has been taken.
Speaking to the Independent in 2022, shadow minister for domestic violence, Jess Phillips outlined this lack of action: “In the year since Sarah Everard was killed, more women have been killed at the hands of men than in the year before. We should know all of their names. A year on since the public demanded better, we have seen more women killed, rape charges falling, and women making it clear that they do not feel safe.
“Too little progress has been made, and still there are no answers from the government about how they will manage, monitor and prevent the most violent repeat offenders. It is not good enough.”
Approximately 230 women (at the time of writing) have been murdered by a man in the UK since the murder of Sarah Everard. But, it’s not only in public spaces that these vile crimes are occurring.
On December 18, just a week before Christmas, Natalie McNally (32) was in her home in Lurgan, Northern Ireland. She was 15 weeks pregnant with her baby boy, Dean, and most likely looking forward to what opportunities may await her in 2023. However, 2023 would never come.
Natalie was stabbed to death by her boyfriend. Murdered in her own home, the place that was meant to be safest for her.
However, unlike Ashling or Sarah, Natalie’s story didn’t blow up on social media. The women of Northern Ireland have been left to mourn her loss alone, while the rest of the UK goes on in blissful ignorance as if Natalie never existed. This should never be the case.
How can women feel safe knowing that something so despicable could happen in their own homes?
There’s no amount of warnings or precautions that can be taken to protect you from a crime like that. Women cannot even rely on their government to take the necessary steps to ensure they’re better protected, let alone rely on a few measly ‘steps’ suggested online that ‘may’ keep them safe
Speaking of the difference in elevation of victims, Femicide Census founder Karen Ingala Smith said: “It is the young, pretty professionals who are killed by a stranger who get the attention from the media.” The sad fact is, she’s absolutely right.
76-year-old Phylis Grant was murdered by her grandson in her home in March 2021. 77-year-old bedbound Carol Hart was murdered by her carer in her home in January 2021, after she found out he had taken thousands from her bank account. 88-year-old Brenda Blainey was murdered in her home by a stranger in January 2022. 40-year-old Yasmin Begum was murdered in her home by her estranged husband in March 2022. Alyson Nelson, 64. Tanysha Ofori-Akuffo, 45. Patricia Bitters, 84. The list of murdered women not covered by media or on social media grows longer each day.
Any woman (or person for that matter) violently murdered in the UK and beyond should have their story spread. Each individual case deserves the same amount of coverage despite their age; religion; or background, because each story left untold is the denial of how severe violence against women is; another woman’s memory forgotten; another win for violence against women – and that simply cannot go on any longer.
So the question is, is there anywhere left that’s safe for women?
Featured Image Credit: Belfast Live