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11 March 2021

Sarah Everard case prompts discussion about different attitude to personal safety between the sexes

11 March 2021

The disappearance of Sarah Everard has prompted a serious online discussion about the different attitudes men and women have towards personal safety.

Human remains have been found and a male police officer is being held on suspicion of murder after Ms Everard, 33, vanished while walking home from a friend’s flat in south London on Wednesday March 3.

The case has become national news followed by millions and, though its full details are not yet known, it has highlighted the danger women can face when out alone – and the measures they take to avoid it.

For some women, it has also been a troubling reminder of their own experiences.

“Sarah Everard did everything right. Everything women are ‘supposed’ to. Bright clothing. Main road. Called her man,” posted Twitter user @thelaurabird.

“Every woman I know in Clapham doesn’t feel safe at night. Not to walk home from work, to exercise, to walk to the shop. I wish more men understood this feeling.”

Other women said they regularly message their friends to share their location so that they can keep track of each other and take alternative routes home when they feel they are being followed.

“I remember a man following me as I was walking home asking for my number once and I was like ‘oh great now I have to detour so he doesn’t know where I live’,” posted journalist and writer Mollie Goodfellow.

Some men took the opportunity of the discussion to ask how they can help to make women feel safer.

“I live less than five minutes from where Sarah Everard went missing. Everyone is on high alert,” posted London resident Stuart Edwards.

“Aside from giving as much space as possible on quieter streets and keeping face visible, is there anything else men can reasonably do to reduce the anxiety/spook factor?”

The question was welcomed by many women, with a number advising that men should try to give them space so they do not feel followed or threatened.

Critic Jay Rayner said: “I’ve said it before but will again: if I find myself walking behind a single woman on a quiet street I always cross the road to the other side and ideally accelerate away as quickly as possible.

“I am a big man and absolutely aware what my silhouette looks like in the darkness.”

Both men and women have acknowledged that the way Ms Everard’s story has been received has created a gender divide, with author Rebecca Reid saying every woman she knows is “overwhelmed” by it.

“It’s the thing they teach us to be afraid of from childhood. It’s proof that we’re not afraid for no reason,” she tweeted.

Meanwhile, Spectator assistant editor Isabel Hardman appeared to ridicule suggestions that women should avoid leaving their homes in order to protect themselves.

“Incredible how normal it is for women to be told not to go out alone after dark,” she tweeted.

“Yet how strange and inexplicable this would seem if the same instruction – or even a curfew – were issued to men,” she added.

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