Sabina Nessa, a 28-year-old teacher, was murdered on September 17th while walking to meet her friend at a local South London pub. While the postmortem has yet to confirm the cause of death, the attack was said to be extremely violent. Her body was found covered in leaves by a community center in the nearby park, according to the Guardian. The walk would have taken only five minutes if she had made it to her destination. With the memory of Sarah Everard’s murder, only 6 months ago, still fresh in their minds, women across Britain held vigil for Nessa and mourned for their own safety.
Koci Selamaj, the 36-year-old garage worker accused of murdering Nessa, appeared in court last Tuesday. From the court hearing, it appears Selamaj did not know the victim. Judge Mark Lucraft QC set the plea hearing for December 16th, but the defendant has already indicated he will be pleading not guilty.
Like Nessa’s, Sarah Everard’s death led to a national conversation about women’s safety. Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, lured Everard, 33, into his car under the false pretense of arrest while she was on her way home from a friend’s house on March 3rd. Couzens received a life sentence without parole after he pled guilty to Everard’s kidnap, rape, and murder last month. Justice Adrian Fulford, who read Couzens his sentence, said that the officer had gone “hunting a lone female to kidnap and rape” on the night of the murder and had plotted his crime in “unspeakably” grim detail. Couzens had been accused of indecent exposure at least twice before the murder.
In the murders’ wake, women have taken to social media to share their own stories and fears. The public questioned how police forces vet their officers. There were calls for Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police’s chief, to step down. There were also calls for reforms, including the immediate suspension of any officer accused of violence against women. Opposition Labour Party legislator Harriet Harman has backed these calls, reports Al Jazeera.
“Women need to be confident that the police are there to make them safe, not to put them at risk,” Harman wrote in a letter to Dick. “Women need to be able to trust the police, not to fear them.”
While women in the U.K. have begun taking defense classes and carrying around rape alarms, it is not their responsibility to keep themselves safe. Jamie Klinger, co-founder of the Reclaims These Streets campaign group, said, “Men need to stop raping and killing us. Kickboxing is not going to change that. It’s about stopping the cause of violence, not further arming ourselves.” The government needs to do more to protect its women and girls, to fund education about sexual consent, and to change the conversation. Instead of telling women what they shouldn’t wear, it should teach men how to control their urges.
Statistics released from the Crime Survey for England and Wales on the amount, type, and nature of sexual assault by rape or penetration (including attempts) estimated that 1.6 million English and Welsh adults, aged 16 to 74 years, had been sexually assaulted since the age of 16. These statistics come from data analyzed over three years, from March 2017 to March 2020. 98% of the victims included in this data reported that their attackers were male. Only 1 in 6 victims reported their assault to the police.
The system needs to change, and it’s time for men to get behind these conversations. It is men who are the problem, so they need to be part of the solution.
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