After the murder of Sarah Everard, women’s groups want change, no more policing

Late Thursday night, Sisters Uncut, a provocative feminist organization that has led the most powerful protest marches in Britain’s growing national movement around women’s security, declared a small victory.

“We have delayed the #PoliceCrackdownBill,” the group said announced on Twitter. “It’s a win, but we will not stop.”

The announcement was just the latest proof that this movement differs from previous campaigns that viewed violence against women in general, but which rarely made great demands.

Women are not angry about the death of Sarah Everard, 33, in London – a police officer has been charged with her kidnapping and murder – but about what they see afterwards as a heavy and misogynistic reaction from the police. They are targeting law enforcers and the judiciary, and are demanding the destruction of a proposed police and crime bill, which would create new restrictions on protests and create broad new powers for the police, and which would lead to violent protests on Sunday. Bristol flares up. night.

This position may seem contradictory to some. After all, the police are often seen as protectors of public safety. When the international movement Black Lives Matter led to calls to defend or even abolish the police, opponents quickly cited the safety of women against rape and assault as a reason why the police should be guarded.

But if Mrs. Everard’s death convinced many women in Britain that the police were not protecting them, the violent police action a few days later at a London vigil in her honor, coupled with the arrest of a police officer over her murder, led many people conclude that the police are an active threat. According to them, women’s safety and freedom can only come from deeper social changes – and any policy change in response to Ms Everard’s death should focus on that.

Margaret Atwood famously said that there was nothing in her novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” that had not happened to women at some point in history. It is often seen as proof of profound acquisition, but it is actually the power behind the novel’s intricate central horror: that any protection women think can be offered through democracy, education, wealth or race, all too easily in an instant.

For many women in Britain, the murder of Ms. Everard and the police’s violent spread of a London night watchman in her memory causes a similar horror, on a less dystopian scale, about how unprotected they really are. It also became a moment to reflect on the suffering of coloreds and other abusive groups, which have long been ignored.

Raven Bowen, the chief executive of National Ugly Mugs, a group working to prevent violence against sex workers, said she was of the opinion that the women there got a taste when the police alerted me last week. Everard broke up at Clapham Common. “Of the kind of trauma that many sex workers have experienced for years at the hands of the police.

She believes that such experiences have a cumulative effect. “What do they get when they ask for protection?” The dr. Bowen asked rhetorically. “It’s a learning experience.”

Lydia Caradonna, a writer and sex worker, said she often encountered the idea that women like her are not entitled to police protection because ‘we have sacrificed the part of our womanhood that keeps us safe, the part that makes us worthy protection. ”

She thinks this is the reason why me. Everard’s death caused such shock waves. “There’s an idea about being a proper woman,” she said. “That Sarah was a proper woman, she did what she had to, and she dressed as she should” – but none of that was enough to keep her safe.

“It can also be quite a crushing sense of self when you realize you’ve done things well and are still being assaulted,” said Nicole Westmarland, a Durham University researcher studying violence against women. “That’s really what happened on an international scale.”

As public anger escalated after the assassination of Ms Everard, the government promised new actions to improve women’s safety: more CCTV cameras, better street lighting and police in pubs and clubs in plain clothes to watch for attacks on female patrons. And it has pushed for more support for the police and crime bill, which will give police departments across the country new powers.

All the answers seem grounded in the theory that women feel insecure because there were not enough police, with enough power, in enough places.

But for many women who express fear and indignation, especially at events organized by Sisters Uncut, it was exactly backward. According to them, the police themselves were a source of trauma and danger. And if they give more power, it will make women more vulnerable.

Me. Everard’s death was a single tragedy, and police action in Clapham last weekend was against one protest. But statistics tell a story of many more widespread failures.

According to government statistics, from 2019 to 2020, less than 3 percent of the rapes reported to the police were prosecuted. And when unreported cases are considered, the actual prosecution rate is even lower.

“Rape has honestly been decriminalized,” said Emily Gray, a lecturer at Derby University who studies policing.

A report for 2019 by the British newspaper The Independent found that 568 London police officers were accused of sexual assault between 2012 and 2018, but only 43 faced disciplinary proceedings. And from April 2015 to April 2018, according to police officers and police personnel, there were at least 700 reports of domestic violence documents obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalists of 37 of Britain’s 48 police forces.

Opponents of the police and crime bill, which would give police a wide power to stop protests, argue that it will make scenes like the one at Clapham Common more frequent and that it is not the most common form of violence against women. will not stop.

“Violence against women usually comes as a result of a power imbalance,” said Dr. Gray said. One reason the police bill is being attacked, she said, is that “it does nothing about it.”

What are the alternatives? Different groups tend to focus on different drugs.

Sisters Uncut, founded in 2014 in response to government austerity measures that have cut funding for women’s shelters and other assistance to women at risk, has long called for such services to be reintroduced.

Offender programs, which work intensively with violent men to prevent them from attacking their partner, have shown some promise in cases where the abusers are committed to change, Drs. Westmarland said.

“The physical and sexual abuse has decreased significantly and in some cases has been completely eliminated,” she said. But she noted that the programs did not lead to a reduction in coercive control – the prevailing emotional abuse which is the hallmark of domestic violence and which in itself is deeply traumatic.

One belief that has cut through almost all the groups involved – including mainstream groups such as the Women’s Institute, the largest women’s organization in the country – is that education should be at the center of any change.

“Such education can be a real opportunity to prevent and shape some of the common attitudes that hurt girls and women, as well as non-binary people, in our society,” said Kate Manne, professor of philosophy at Cornell University and the author said, of two books on the ways in which sexism shapes society, said in an interview.

But while education may sound like the kind of anodine concept anyone can support, dr. Men said via text message that she believes it would actually be quietly radical for education to address the politically charged issues of misogyny, male privilege and male responsibility for ending the case. male violence.

“Do you think sex education would become political?” she asked. ‘Sigh. However, this is my dream. ‘

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