Most important lesson from Sarah Everard's death is women aren't to blame

Candles, messages and flowers left on the steps of the Parkinson Building at the University of Leeds

Candles, messages and flowers left on the steps of the Parkinson Building at the University of Leeds in West Yorkshire, during a Reclaim These Streets vigil for Sarah Everard - Credit: PA

As women we have all been rocked by the news this week. As mothers we have been knocked that little bit harder.

Sarah Everard.

A name we all know for the wrong reasons.

We don’t know the exact circumstances surrounding her death but we don’t have to.

We know enough.

Sarah Everard made a choice, like we all have done, to walk home after dark, alone, through a park.

The price she paid for that choice was her life. Whatever happened to her in the certain terror leading up to it wasn’t part of her choice that night.

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She just wanted to get home.

She just wanted to get home!

Yet as with all female attacks the narrative and question always seems to be: “But did she do something to invite it?"

By making the choice to be alone at night did she invite harm from a man? What was she wearing, was it a factor? You can’t run in heels, did she have trainers on? Did she get a cab? Did she call home? Where were her friends?

The truth is, as women, we have to think about all of those questions every single time we go out. The truth is also, we shouldn’t have to.

All women have been frightened while walking alone be it because someone is causing us anxiety or because we know they could. All of us. That night, Sarah, like every single one of us, will have weighed up the pros and cons.

She will have considered danger, thought about what she was wearing, perhaps got her keys to hand to act as a weapon, maybe she will have made a fake phone call as she stepped it out to the home she never reached.

She will have looked over her shoulder, even before the attacker found her and she will have been nervous. We have all been there and all done those things and perhaps until now we have accepted that.

We also all of us have a story, or 12, about men who have frightened us, attacked us, terrorised us… That’s just being a woman. Truth.

I myself have been flashed at more than once.

On the Tube at night, on the streets in Norwich in broad daylight, as a teenager when my neighbour thought it was ok to repeatedly stand on his windowsill behind curtains to reveal himself when I came out of my door.

I’ve been on a date where the man has tried to force himself upon me. Been walked home by a “friend” who when his advances were rebuffed exposed himself for a reason he only knows the answer to

I’ve had my bottom pinched by bosses, been leered at in the street both with and without my children in tow, been broken into in the middle of the night.

I have stories from my youth (there was the time a 23 year old man tried it on with me when I was 13) and stories from the now. The stories, the little ones and the big ones just keep perpetuating in a culture which says if a woman is subjected to male behaviour like this she probably deserved it.

All the stories, big and small, eventually lead to stories like the one which belongs to Sarah and though not all men are responsible, all men have a duty to behave better. Not all men wolf whistle or beep women from their cars. Not all give a second glance to a short skirt, text “banter” about women to their mates, leer, jeer or bottom pat.

And not all men flash, chase, hit, harm, rape or murder.

But because of the few and because of the choices women make over what to wear, where to go or company to keep never act as an invite to men, all men have to make all women feel safe all the time!

As a mother of daughters I will teach my girls how to make better choices even though I shouldn’t have to.

More importantly, as a mother of sons I will educate my boys on how to behave so that their sisters have fewer lessons to learn.

We need to take from Sarah Everard’s truly sad death that our sons need to grow into the men we want to encounter on a dark night and not the ones we fear.

We want them to cross the road to make us feel at ease, back off, not touch us without invitation and respect us with their hands and their eyes.

There are lots of lessons to be learned from Sarah’s death but this is the most important one: Women. Are. Not. To. Blame!

Sarah Everard.

A name we all know for the wrong reasons.

She was someone’s daughter, friend, girlfriend, sister.

She will be remembered by the people who loved her for all the brilliant things she will have been to them but for those of us who didn’t know her we have to serve her memory and insist our sons grow up differently.

For Sarah, the mother she will never be, for all the women who have found themselves victim and for Sarah’s mother, all the mothers have to do this.

It is our duty to Sarah and to all women, including our daughters.

Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk

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