I don’t want to write about Moira Jones, murdered in 2008, whose mother penned a heart-breaking letter of loss to Sarah’s parents. Or Agnieszka Szefler, Leighanne Cameron, Ahdieh Khayatzadeh, Zoe Nelson or any of the 112 women killed by men in Scotland in the last decade.
I don’t even want to think about them really. The problem is too vast... what can I do except light a candle and instruct my daughter to carry her keys in her hand at night when she’s older; to not talk to strange men or maybe to talk to them if it feels safer and they might let you walk on by if you smile; to get a taxi home late at night rather than a bus, or maybe not because, you know, John Worboys; to avoid walking past parked vans because Levi Bellfield; or maybe it would be safer to tell her not to let her go out at all?
Yet write about them them I, we, must, otherwise we accept what Jess Philips said in the Commons last week, that as a society we’ve accepted dead women “as just one of those things”.
We must talk about them, their deaths and male violence, even when it feels overwhelming; even when the torrent of murder, rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and street harassment experienced by so many women and girls, makes us feels like we’re drowning.
We must interrogate what is happening to women and girls, still happening. We must ask why men murder those they are supposed to care for – most women killed die at the hands of a partner, an ex or even a son – and why even in 2021 we have no official way of counting these “domestic homicides” or policies which look at the issue in the round.
We must ask why this obvious hate towards women, apparently carried in the hearts of so many men, is so complex we cannot even find a way to protect women from it in our laws.
We must ask why we ignore the sexual exploitation of women which sees women trafficked across the world to meet the sexual needs of men.
We must find a way to make men face their responsibilities in this. It is, after all, a male issue.
Understanding what lies at the root of society’s blindness to this epidemic of violence is where we must focus our efforts and that is surely rooted in inequality and a warped belief that women are worth less than men.
Yes, we can point to a female First Minister, but that does not mean inequality is resolved. Indeed the sexist bile and threats poured out towards women in any position of authority should shame us all.
Preventing all murder is probably beyond our ability, but this should be no country for men who hate women. Changing the attitudes of men, ensuring they are not passed to future generations, cannot be beyond our ken, even if, in the wake of a tragedy such as Sarah Everard’s killing, it can feel like it is.