While there were still doubts that violence against women was not her fault, the murder of Briton Sarah Everard is definitive proof, believes criminologist Nicole Westmarland, researcher at Durham University . On the night of March 3, when the 33-year-old executive was kidnapped and killed, she complied with all of the recommended “conduct manuals” for women to avoid assault.
She was wearing long pants, flats, a hat and a raincoat, she was not drunk, she said where she was and where she was going when she left her friends’ house and was walking around a crowded neighborhood of London to his house. . When he was last seen it was 9:30 p.m.
This proof that “following the rules” is not enough to prevent violence has made Everard a symbol and sparked the protests that have taken place in the UK in recent weeks, says the researcher.
Westmarland sees education as the most effective way to tackle violence against women. “This is what we need, that the new generation of people who are growing up do not act violently, do not tolerate abuse, be able to distinguish when it is happening and how to prevent it.”
For Westmarland, there are several isolated programs in the UK – such as male abuser support, which she has researched and seen results in – but a “massive change” is needed.
Statistics show that violence against women is neither a new nor a minor problem in the UK. What explains the agitation generated by the Sarah Everard affair? Who she was and the circumstances of the crime. When a woman is assaulted, the reaction is usually “she was killed because she had a relationship with an abusive man”, “she was killed because she was walking alone in the middle of the night”. The woman was still being killed for doing something she shouldn’t have done. But Sarah Everard followed all safety rules for women. She said where she was, told her when she was leaving, she was wearing pants and a jacket, she wasn’t drunk and it all happened in the middle of a metropolis like London.
What was shocking was that it is not possible to believe what they say that women can be safe if they do a, b or c. Sarah Everard exploded all these myths and showed the general public something that criminologists have long been saying: These attitudes are not enough to keep women safe. It is not the individual behavior of the woman that avoids male violence.
After the murder, the UK government announced tougher sentences and made crimes such as non-fatal strangulation a felony. Does toughening the law help? Many would say that changes like the choke are very, very important. It is important to have laws to condemn abusers. But the UK already has many laws that are not being implemented or used to their full potential. Two women per week are killed by their partner or ex-partner.
In the case of rape, for example, only a tiny proportion of cases reported to the police are referred by the prosecution. Obviously, not everyone is doomed, because not everyone is guilty. We need good laws, but we also need other things around.
Organizations on the ground always stress that preventive measures are essential, but they tend to be underestimated or postponed by the government. Why is it so difficult to invest in prevention? Prevention is always at the base because there is not in the UK the level of investment necessary to take violence really seriously. There are several disconnected songs, a program in an x zone, a pilot study with young people in a place y, several small attempts, but we never really invested in the root.
We have never stopped studying what we really need to have effective early intervention with young people. This is what we need, that the new generation of people who are growing up do not act violently, do not tolerate abuse, be able to distinguish when it occurs and how to avoid it. And then we can really create large-scale change.
Mass change requires investment, resources and energy on a scale that is also enormous. It is this level shift that we need if we are to end violence against women, and not just deal with business after it has happened.
Criminologist and researcher at Durham University, where she teaches in the masters program of the Department of Sociology. She is the author of the book “Violence Against Women. Criminological Perspectives on Men Violences”