- London Met Police officer Wayne Couzens falsely arrested, raped, and murdered Sarah Everard.
- Women’s trust in the police has eroded, Farah Nazeer, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid told Insider.
- One woman told Insider: “I’m 28 years old. I can’t even walk in my neighborhood past 7/8pm without fearing for my safety.”
At the time of the attack, Couzens was a police officer with the Metropolitan Police. He used his police powers to ‘arrest’ Everard and handcuff her.
The case had had ripple effects across society, with each update acting as a match to the fire of the discussion of the safety of women.
At the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the force Couzens worked at before the Metropolitan Police, he was nicknamed “the rapist” for how he made his female colleagues feel uncomfortable. He is alleged to have committed several flashing incidents and was “attracted to violent sexual pornography,” the Old Bailey was told.
After this case, women are losing their trust in the police.
Couzens has “considerably added to the sense of insecurity that many have living in our cities, perhaps particularly women.” Cressida Dick, the head of the Metropolitan Police, spoke outside the Old Bailey after Couzens’ sentencing.
“The police’s failure to take violence against women and girls seriously enough is “infuriating,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said in the wake of Everard’s murder. In an interview with The Times, Johnson said that the public are right to feel the police are failing women and girls who are subjected to violence and sexual abuse.
“Sarah was kidnapped on the road behind my house”
Farah Nazeer, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, told Insider: “Female confidence in the police dropped dramatically following Couzens’ arrest and this was underpinned by the heavy-handed and inappropriate treatment of women attending the vigil to remember her life.”
She added: “The police need to urgently address the culture of sexism that exists, prioritize violence against women and girls to the same level as terrorism, and utilize their funding to ensure that they tackle the issues of male violence towards women.”
—BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) September 30, 2021
As a result of women losing their faith, their trust in the police, they are changing their behavior in a long-shot effort to feel safer, they told Insider.
“Sarah was kidnapped on the road behind my house, so it could literally be me or my flatmate that night,” said Guilia, 25, (who asked only to be referred to by her first name to protect her identity) and lives by Sarah Everard’s old home in the fashionable Clapham Common area of south London.
“We were both walking home that night when she was kidnapped, and we took the same route as Everard,” she told Insider.
“When it happened, I was saying to everyone it was 9pm, and I would generally walk home because it was still early. But now my attitude has changed. Instead of walking home from a night out, I would call an Uber. It’s shocking that it’s 2021, and we still need to be afraid of walking down the street.
“I feel a bit helpless and hopeless because I don’t see how the culture will change.”
‘Normal life’ now looks different for many women as they try and dodge the chance of danger from anyone – including authorities they have been taught to trust.
“I changed my running route yesterday because I wanted to keep to as many busy, public spaces as possible. Knowing full well of course that Sarah was kidnapped in public, in full view of witnesses, and that the idea of sticking to ‘safe places’ is nothing more than an illusion.” Julia, 30, from Manchester, told Insider.
“I feel truly shaken by the bold, calculated nature of this horrific crime and feel genuinely frightened of the very real prospect of other officers abusing the trust of women and getting away with it.
“I cannot express how disgusted and furious I feel and how powerless.” She said.
—Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) October 1, 2021
Hannah, a political campaigner based in London, told Insider: “Ever since Sarah was murdered, I have been scared to go anywhere at night. Before the sentencing, on Tuesday, I walked the ten minutes from the station to my flat at 10pm,” said Hannah.
” It was pouring with rain but I didn’t want to put my hood up as it made it harder to look behind me to check I wasn’t being followed. I noticed a man quite far behind me and although I knew it was unlikely, I was really scared to the point of tears and ended up walking down the middle of the road so that no one could pull me into the bushes,” she said.
“I’m 28 years old. I can’t even walk in my neighborhood past 7/8pm without fearing for my safety.”
Hannah told Insider that she previously would have trusted the police to some degree, she now has concerns for her safety if she had any contact with them.
—Dawn Butler MP✊🏾💙 (@DawnButlerBrent) October 1, 2021
Dr. Ann Olivarius, a specialist lawyer in sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination, told Insider that there are 160 other reports of sexual misconduct against London police officers. “We deserve to know what the Met will do to change. Sunshine is the only disinfectant,” she said.
Just weeks after Sarah Everard’s burned remains were found in Deal, Kent, two police officers were arrested and charged for misconduct after they shared pictures with the bodies of sisters Nicole Smallman, 27, and Bibaa Henry, 46, who were stabbed to death in a northwest London park in June 2020.
Likewise, Couzens is believed to have been in a WhatsApp group with five police officers who are being investigated for gross misconduct.
The officers allegedly shared “discriminatory” messages – including misogynistic content, which were discovered during the Everard murder investigation, reported the BBC.
Meanwhile, on the same day that Couzens was sentenced, Kate Wilson won her case against the Met Police after she was duped into a sexual relationship by an undercover officer who was investigating the environmental and social justice activist.
Three judges at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruled that the Met Police had violated Wilson’s human rights in five ways.
—Robyn Vinter (@RobynVinter) September 30, 2021
Tabitha Morton, deputy leader of the Women’s Equality Party – a small political party in the UK focused on Women’s Rights – told Insider ” that these events are a show of the “systemic failings” of the police.
“What we’re calling for is to really rip out the system and start again. The biggest frustration for myself and the Women’s Equality Party is that there doesn’t seem to be the political will to do this. We keep seeing sticking plasters: temporary measures. So what we’ve been calling for all year is for this to be treated like domestic terrorism,” said Morton.
“The only difference being, it’s only half of the population who are facing this threat,” she added.
9 rapes occur every hour
The abuse, assault, and harassment of women in the UK are relentless. The Office for National Statistics reports that roughly 9 women are raped every hour. The data also shows that 1693 women are victims of sexual assaults, including attempts, every day. However, this data is understood to be a vast underestimate, as only the reported rapes can be recorded.
Sexual assault and violence against women do not just come in the horrifying, heartbreaking cases that make headlines.
Street harassment is a common – and legal – experience for women, who find themselves harassed by doing no more than walking down the street, minding their business.
Tara,* 28, told Insider about one aggressive experience she’d had with street harassment.
“I was walking to see a friend and I took a turn onto a side road shortcut. It was dark but it still felt early as it was just after 6pm. As I walked down the street, a man started to approach me and I immediately got the sense I was at risk.
“As he came closer, I realized he was masturbating and closing in on me in the narrow alley. I loudly pretending to answer a phone call which made him recoil.”
Just days before he killed Sarah Everard, a McDonald’s worker claimed that Wayne Couzens flashed her twice at work and this could have been an important clue to his escalation behavior that led to the killing, say experts.
Tara rang the police after the indecent exposure incident.
“They were as exacting and clinical as you would expect. And that’s when I finally ended up crying. I felt I had to apologize for sobbing, which was met with silence and an attempt to get me off the phone as quickly as possible
Campaigners argue that the police don’t take indecent exposure seriously and this was Tara’s experience.
“There was no update on the case and there was no concern. I do not feel more police would protect us, because we need to see change beyond ‘catching perpetrators’. We need to stop creating violent people in the first place, by addressing root social causes we know exacerbate violence towards women and non-binary people.”
*Insider has used a pseudonym to protect the identity of the interviewee.