Sabina Nessa, 28, left her home in London on Friday 17th September at 8.30pm to walk the five minutes to a nearby bar to meet a friend. She never made it. Her body was found the next day in a park by a member of the public. The park would typically be well populated with joggers and dog walkers at that time in the evening but that wasn’t enough to save her. Koci Selamaj, 36, has now appeared in court charged with Sabina’s murder.
Sabina was a teacher, a friend, a sister, and a daughter. Her death comes just months after the death of Sarah Everard in March who was murdered by a police officer. Sarah was walking home from a friend’s house at in London when she was abducted and killed. Both murders have sparked vigils across the UK as women recognise and are angered by the hard truth: it’s not safe to be a woman.
The last few weeks, Gabby Petito’s story has been all over American news, documenting her disappearance, to her body being found, and the federal arrest warrant that’s out on her boyfriend who is suspected of her murder. She wasn’t even safe with her boyfriend. These cases catch the public’s attention because the girls could be our friend, our family, or even ourselves.
From a young age, there are certain rules that women have been taught to live by:
- Don’t go out at night,
- Don’t have your hair in a ponytail,
- Don’t have both headphones in when in public,
- Stay in busy areas,
- Don’t wear revealing clothing,
- Hold your keys between your fingers at night,
- Don’t wear heels,
- Don’t get drunk,
- Don’t be too nice,
- Don’t be rude,
- Meet new people in a public space,
- Make your own way to a date,
- Never leave your drink unattended,
- Don’t be sexy,
- Don’t be frigid,
- Don’t share where you live,
- Don’t say you live alone,
- Don’t open the door if you’re not expecting anyone,
- If there’s something stuck on your car, don’t get out and check it.
The list goes on and on. Did you notice some of them are contradictory? It is not enough to follow these rules, Sarah Everard did everything society says she was supposed to, and was murdered by a police officer.
Following the death of Sarah Everard, Baroness Jenny Jones, a member of the Green party, suggested a 6pm curfew for all men to ensure a safer space for women in a discussion on domestic abuse laws. This suggestion caused outrage, and was labelled as ridiculous and impractical, but as Baroness Jones explained: “I was just trying to highlight that when the police victim blame by asking women to stay home, we don’t react. We just think it’s normal.” (news.sky.com).
I am writing this on the day Sarah Everard’s murderer was sentenced to life in prison for his crime, the police commissioner Cressida Dick made a statement following the sentencing which was just salt in the wound: “The force encouraged members of the public to challenge lone plain clothes police officer” and “If a person still does not feel safe, the force said they should consider “shouting out to a passerby, running into a house, knocking on a door, waving a bus down or, if you are in the position to do so, calling 999.” (theguardian.com). As ever, the burden of staying safe is in on the potential victims and not a police matter, and why would it be when “More than half of Metropolitan police officers found to have committed sexual misconduct also stayed in post: a total of 43 officers out of 83 or 52%” (bylinetimes.com).
On average in the UK there are 128,000 rape or attempted rape victims each year. If that figure isn’t scary enough, only 20% of these cases are reported to the police. Of those 20%, 1.6% typically result in a conviction. This means rape is effectively legal as the conviction rate is almost non-existent. This needs to change. Before anyone jumps in talking about false accusations, the Home Office have investigated the likelihood of false accusations and concluded it to be around 3%.
The rules women are supposed to live by are not enough, they never were enough and all they mean is the attack, rape or murder happens to someone else. There is always someone drunker, someone out later, someone who can’t run as fast, someone less cautious. The onus should have never been on women. It was never going to be enough.
If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem and women are paying with their lives.