One year ago today 33-year-old Sarah Everard was kidnapped, raped and murdered in south London as she walked home from seeing a friend.
Her murderer was serving police officer Wayne Couzens, who faked a Covid arrest to abduct the marketing executive before raping and killing her. He is now serving life behind bars and will never be released.
Today, one year on from her death, her family said in a statement: “It is a year since Sarah died and we remember her today, as every day, with all our love.
“Our lives have changed forever and we live with the sadness of our loss. Sarah was wonderful and we miss her all the time.
“Over the past year we have been overwhelmed with the kindness shown to us, not just by family and friends, but by the wider public.
“We are immensely grateful to everyone for their support, it has meant such a lot to us and has comforted us through this terrible time.
“Sadly, Sarah is not the only woman to have lost her life recently in violent circumstances and we would like to extend our deepest sympathy to other families who are also grieving.”
But how much has changed for women since that tragic day one year ago?
What do women think?
Women around the UK have been reflecting on Sarah’s death today and voicing their opinions on social media on their feelings as women.
One wrote: “We’ve learned nothing from Sarah Everard’s death.”
Another said: “One year on from the murder of Sarah Everard and in the build up to #IWD22 this is a stark reminder that more must be done to create more #accessible and #equitable #publicspaces.”
One told: “A year since the murder of Sarah Everard and sadly, not much has changed. We still feel unsafe walking alone at night.”
One said: “How has this been a year already? I didn’t know her but I still think about her all the time. Her case made me really reflect on how I see my place as a woman in this world. May her death bring change and meaning, may we never forget that moment.”
What do activists say?
Patsy Stevenson appeared on ITV morning show Lorraine today to discuss women’s safety.
Activist Patsy was arrested by police at the vigil held for Sarah and she struggled to speak as she explained to host Lorraine Kelly about that moment, which saw police hold her down on the floor in what many described as heavy-handedness.
Asked by Lorraine if she felt anything had changed, she said: “In regards to women’s safety, nothing has changed at all.
“That’s the thing – it’s sparked such interest around the world and still nothing’s happened. So it’s like what has to happen for actual change.”
The presenter then asked her if she felt we, as a nation, were “in any way closer to seeing women feeling safer on the streets now the issue has been highlighted,” she admitted: “I just don’t think we are.”
Anna Birley, organizer of Reclaim These Streets, was asked by Sky News if she thinks women are any safer 12 months on from Sarah Everard’s death.
She said: “Short answer, no. I think what’s really disappointing is how politicians, decision-makers, senior police officers all said that last March was this watershed moment for women’s safety and not only has it happened again, there was the tragic case of Sabina Nessa, for example, but very little has happened as a result of their words.
“Every woman I know, myself included, still checks their behavior – not walking down certain roads, especially at night, getting a taxi if it’s not more than a short distance away.”
Action by ministers to ensure that women and girls in this country feel safe is “not going far enough” or “fast enough”, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has warned.
She told MPs this week the rape prosecution rate “is now down to a horrendous record low of just 1.3%.”
Justice minister Victoria Atkins said the Government’s strategy for tackling violence against women and girls has been launched, but added that a long-term communications campaign entitled “Enough” will also aim to change minds.
Opening Labour’s Opposition Day Commons debate, Ms Cooper said: “I welcome the work that the Government has done on tackling violence against women and girls, I welcome some of the policies that they have set out, but the reason for calling this debate today is that it is not enough.
“We are not being determined enough, we are not going far enough, we are not going fast enough to ensure that women and girls in this country feel safe in the way that they are entitled to do.”
Citing the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) report which found that rape victims are being “continually and systematically failed” by the criminal justice system, she said: “How has the Government allowed this to happen? How has the Home Office and the Justice Department allowed this to happen?
She added: “There is still no sense of the scale of urgency and the scale of action that is needed… We called for violence against women and girls to be treated as a top priority alongside terrorism in 2014. We need clear objectives, detailed outcomes against which the police and the criminal justice system will be judged.”
Labour, she said, is calling for a specialist rape and sexual assault unit in every force, adding: “It just should be a basic requirement.”
Ms Atkins told MPs: “Part of this longer-term societal change is about drawing a line as to what is healthy and acceptable behavior in relationships, because, for all sorts of reasons we know about including, we all suspect, the influence of the internet pornography, there seems to be some disconnect between what we know to be healthy, and what our girls and young women are facing.
She added: “This multi-year campaign will begin that vital work to make clear to perpetrators that their crimes will not be tolerated. It will drive societal rejection of these crimes and it will help give victims the confidence they need to seek help if they feel able to do so.”
Labor chairwoman of the Home Affairs Committee Dame Diana Johnson said she is “really concerned” at the number of gaps and delays in the implementation of the male violence against women and girls strategy.
Labour’s Bell Ribeiro-Addy (Streatham), spoke about “cuts” to police vetting and training.
She said: “Evidence has consistently been revealed to show a deeply misogynistic culture within the Metropolitan Police… Women need to be able to turn to the police to deliver justice and to prosecute the perpetrators of male violence.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.