One year on from Sarah's murder and none of us feels any safer

It is one year since Sarah Everard’s murder by a policeman but despite all the promises made since, NONE of us feel any safer, writes JENNI MURRAY

  • Sarah Everard was raped and murdered by a serving police officer one year ago
  • It’s estimated there are 128,000 victims of rape and attempted rape each year
  • UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, launched a campaign dubbed ‘Enough’ this week
  • Jenni Murray says we will feel safer if complaints of abuse speedily investigated

Today, astonishingly, is the anniversary of the abduction, rape and murder by a serving police officer of Sarah Everard.

It seems like only yesterday we were grieving for Sarah, holding vigils in her memory and trembling with fear and fury at the revelation that she had been duped into getting into a car with Wayne Couzens, thinking she was being accused of the ‘crime’ of breaching lockdown rules by walking home alone near London’s Clapham Common.

The questions flowed thick and fast. How did the Metropolitan Police not know Couzens was a danger to women? Why had he been dubbed ‘the rapist’ by his equally misogynist colleagues who seemed to find his reputation for exposing himself highly amusing?

All of us knew that what happened to Sarah — and to Sabina Nessa, who was murdered in South-East London six months after Sarah — could so easily have happened to us. We’d all taken detours to avoid dangerous spaces, we’d all carried keys as a potential weapon, we’d all worn flat shoes in case we needed to run.

Jenni Murray said it seems like only yesterday we were grieving for Sarah (pictured), and trembling with fear that she had been duped into getting into a car with Wayne Couzens

We also knew that being out alone at night was our right, and that harassment or abuse was not our fault. It should not be up to us to keep ourselves safe by living limited, fearful lives.

But in the months after Sarah’s killing, the only advice the police had to offer to a woman who felt fear of lurking danger, whether from a police officer or any man, was to flag down a bus!

Where was the acknowledgement that it was not our responsibility to be safe? Where were the promises that only trustworthy police officers would be employed?

Evidence of more appalling police behaviour was soon exposed, and the revelations keep coming.

Inappropriate photos were taken of the bodies of the sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry in a Wembley park by two Met police officers in June 2020. Last month, it emerged disgusting messages joking about rape and domestic violence were exchanged by officers at Charing Cross police station.

In the weeks after Sarah’s death, Boris Johnson promised the Government would do everything it could to ensure the streets were safe, providing better lighting and greater use of CCTV in parks and other areas.

But CCTV was no help to Sarah. Pieced-together footage of Sarah’s last journey and encounter with Couzens is available online for all to see, and there was no lack of street lighting as she walked on the pavement.

Why has there not been a police force-wide re-vetting process to root out the wrong ’uns? Why has every officer’s mobile phone and computer not been checked, as has happened to so many innocent women complaining of rape or sexual assault? Tweets and texts might well reveal who is fit to be a police officer and who is not.

One year on, do any of us feel any safer on the streets or any more trusting of the police meant to protect us?

No, we don’t!

Jenni (pictured) claims we will all feel safer if we know complaints of abuse will be believed and speedily investigated

It’s incredible that it has taken a year for the Government to acknowledge that women enjoying their independence is not the problem. That the danger lies with predatory, dangerous men.

A campaign, dubbed Enough, was launched this week by the Home Secretary Priti Patel, who admitted that ‘for too long, the responsibility of keeping safe has been placed on the shoulders of women and girls’.

It will consist of adverts on TV, radio, social media and billboards, encouraging men to call out their friends who send naked pictures, harass women in the street, submit their partners to coercive control or engage in unwanted touching.

We know not all men and boys are bad, and a campaign of this nature may well persuade some lads to break away from ‘banter culture’ and tell a less enlightened mate he’s wrong to post naked pictures of his girlfriend as ‘revenge porn’. But it’s not nearly ‘Enough’.

There’s only one way to make women feel safer on the streets — and that’s to target the bad guys and bang them up.

Every woman I know has either suffered some form of sexual violence herself, or knows a friend or colleague who has. It happened to me many years ago when I was raped while still a student.

It’s estimated there are 128,000 victims of rape and attempted rape each year. In the 12 months to September 2021, 63,136 rape offences were recorded by the police. Of those, only 1.3 per cent resulted in a suspect being charged, leading to prosecution.

Dame Vera Baird, Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, has long maintained that rape convictions are so low, the offence has been virtually decriminalised. A review published after a joint inspection by the police and courts watchdogs found an average 706‑day wait for cases to get to court, perpetrators walking free because cases were poorly handled and a collapse of public trust in the ability of police and prosecutors.

The report also detailed ‘brutal’ cross-examinations of rape complainants and a failure to protect them from intimidation by suspects and their families. No wonder 40 per cent of victims drop out of such a scary, lengthy process.

The watchdogs have proposed creating specialist rape courts within the next three months to help clear a backlog of thousands of cases. This is incredibly welcome news because we need a new way to prosecute rape and must eradicate the myths surrounding it.

Fact: False allegations are very rare (only around 3 per cent).

Fact: Very few rapes are committed by a stranger; 86 per cent of women know their attacker.

Fact: Women do not say ‘no’ when they mean ‘yes’.

We will all feel safer if we know complaints of abuse will be believed and speedily investigated, and those dangerous myths put aside. Too many men think they can get away with rape and do it again. We cannot wait yet another year for something to finally be done.

Why dress high-powered women in girlie pink?

Jenni Murray questions ITV’s decision to display their daytime presenters (pictured) in various shades of pink as they celebrate International Women’s Day

Grand to see the bevy of smart, clever women employed as ITV Daytime presenters brought together in celebration of next Tuesday’s International Women’s Day. But why display them in various shades of pink — a stereotypical ‘girlie’ colour, for goodness’ sake? Were so many accomplished women really happy to look like they belonged in the little girls’ section of a toy shop?

Jenni said it’s heartbreaking to see all those poor women carrying their children and pets to escape Ukraine 

How heartbreaking to see all those poor women, clamouring to escape Ukraine, carrying their children, dogs and cats to safety. Everyone will understand their desperation to protect their children, but their pets? Honestly, I’d have been with them. I couldn’t have left Frieda, Madge and Suu — my two chihuahuas and a Burmese — to burn in Putin’s conflagration. 

Jenni questions the point of making the new Batman movie almost three hours long, when the target audience has a short attention span

  • The new Batman movie, starring Robert Pattinson, is almost three hours long. What’s the point when the attention span of the target audience is barely longer than the opening credits? 

Jenni Murray believes it’s wrong that women will lost their right to early and easier abortions at the end of August (file image) 

  • Early medical abortion usually involves taking two medications, mifepristone and misoprostol, over a couple of days. During the pandemic, the pills were sent home and women who were up to ten weeks’ pregnant were able to take responsibility for their own care, while still having the option to visit a clinic to talk to someone in person.

Last week, it was confirmed that women would lose this right to early and easier abortions at the end of August.

I strongly believe this is wrong. A woman has the right to control her own body. If it was safe under lockdown, why not now?

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