we stand against violence

We Stand against Violence

In response to the murder of Sarah Everard

Content note: sexual harassment, murder, police brutality, sexism, racism, transphobia, ableism

The past year has been an exposing one, drawing national attention to many of society’s deepest flaws. Last week was rife with this.

Sarah Everard’s murder was a tragedy, and has evoked fear, anger, and grief in women and non-binary and gender nonconforming people, who are also marginalised under gender oppression. We share in this fear, this anger, this grief, which comes not only with the weight of Sarah’s story, but of other stories told by the media over the years, of our friends’ stories, our families’, our own.

Because this was not an isolated incident. In grieving Sarah, we grieve the countless other women who have lost their lives because this patriarchal society is built in a way that makes men feel entitled to our bodies, and which places the responsibility on us to protect ourselves, rather than on them to respect us. As we saw last week, a YouGov poll revealed that 97% women aged 18-24, and 80% of all women, have been sexually harassed. This is a terrifying, appalling statistic but, for most women, unsurprising.

Women have been talking about this for decades. And yet, like so many other issues, it has taken a murder to bring it to national attention. Not only a murder, but the murder of a young white cisgender woman. Sarah is the 118th cisgender woman who was killed in the UK in the last year. The ultimate total is likely tragically higher than this with trans women included. And trans women must be included. There is no gender equality with the exclusion of trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people.

There is also no gender equality with the exclusion of Black women and women of colour. We have not seen this national attention, this national fear, anger, and grief in response to many similar cases of Black women and women of colour. Sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry were found murdered in a London park last year and two Met officers were suspended after taking photos with their bodies, but we did not see the same national outcry in response to their deaths as we have seen this past week. This is exposing, once again, of British institutional racism, and of toxic white feminism. Nobody is safe until all women are safe; our feminism must be intersectional.

This means listening to and amplifying the voices of Black women and women of colour, who have been calling out police brutality in the UK for years. And yet, many of us did not truly acknowledge this until Sarah’s death, or until the protests on Clapham Common over the weekend. This in itself has brought pain to Black people and people of colour this past week. To truly challenge sexism, we must pay attention to the intersecting ways in which it is experienced.

Women with disabilities experience sexism in different and exacerbated ways, such as being left more vulnerable due to inaccessibility of public transport which they therefore cannot use to travel home safely. Many women with disabilities also face abuse from those who are supposed to care for them, and those in positions of power over them, and face barriers to protesting this ableism. Protests are often inaccessible, and women with disabilities face greater risk to physical harm through police brutality. Again, we must listen to and amplify their voices, making feminist spaces and conversations more accessible, and ensuring the justice we seek is equitable and inclusive.

We all have work to do. But in this time of rage and grief and loss, we may not all need the same thing. In this moment, many of us want to act, in this moment, many of us want to curl up and cry. All responses are valid. We are working with Student Services to set up a support event for anyone who feels they would benefit from speaking with peers in a facilitated space following last week’s events.

Furthermore, we have various ongoing workstreams aimed at reducing harassment and supporting those who face it. You can report and seek support for any incidents of harassment via Report and Support, with the option to do so anonymously. The website highlights further resources for those facing harassment on its Support Available page. We are also in the process of setting up a support network for Black women and women of colour, and will announce details of this once sessions are underway. Our Safer Taxi scheme exists to allow students who are feeling unsafe to pay for their taxi home at a later date if they are unable to do so at the time, and our A Night to Remember campaign educates about alcohol safety, and helps clubs and societies to organise socials that don’t centre around alcohol. You can access the 20/21 booklet here.

We must ensure that these issues of sexual misconduct, sexism, and racism do not fade from our attention as they fade from the news cycles, but continue to feed into our behaviour, our activism, our work. Please do (respectfully) share your thoughts in the comments here and on Facebook, and email us if you’d like to feed into our work in these areas, or have any projects or events in these areas you’d like help bringing to life.

For now, speak up and speak out, listen and learn, take time to rest and recuperate.

Em Anderson
Welfare, Community, and Diversity Officer

Briony Randell
Women’s+ Officer

Laura Taylor
Invisible Disabilities Officer

Lucy Hawker
Invisible Disabilities Officer

 

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