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How a week dedicated to celebrating women turned into one about our lack of safety

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Hollie Richardson
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It’s been a devastating week for women everywhere, and Jess Phillips’ list of 118 women who were killed by a man over the last year has just proven that we don’t feel safe anywhere.

Kicked off by International Women’s Day on Monday (8 March), this week was supposed to be about celebrating women around the world. It didn’t last very long. 

The following day, Meghan Markle was subjected to further vitriol following her televised interview with Oprah. She’d opened up about her bad mental health and the racism against her baby son, but that only seemed to fuel more hatred. Piers Morgan made such unacceptable comments about Meghan that a colleague called him out live on Good Morning Britain and Morgan has since left his presenting slot.

Then, in the following days, women were horrified and saddened by the reported developments of Sarah Everard’s disappearance. Too many of us related to the normal act of walking home alone at night and fearing for our safety. It triggered women to share their experiences about street harassment: something that 16,000 women experienced in London alone in the year running up to March 2019, according to stats from the Mayor of London’s Police and Crime unit.

Sarah’s disappearance, and the confirmation on Friday 12 March it was her body found in woodland in Kent, has made headlines around the world but, sadly, statistics show this story isn’t an entirely uncommon one: a person goes missing in the UK every 90 seconds.

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It’s been a difficult week for women everywhere who have been watching these stories unfold. Yesterday (Thursday 11 March), Labour MP Jess Phillips shared yet another reason why we feel this way.

Phillips stood up at the International Women’s Day Debate 2021, held at the House of Commons, to read out the names of 118 women killed in the UK last year where a man was “convicted or charged” as the “primary perpetrator”. It took her over four minutes.

“We don’t currently count dead women,” Phillips said. “No government study is done into the patterns every year or the data of domestic abuse victims who are killed, die by suicide or die suddenly.

“Dead women is a thing we have all just accepted as part of our daily lives. Dead women is just one of those things. Killed women are not vanishingly rare. Killed women are common.”

Here is a list of the names she read out:

  • Vanita Nowell
  • Tracey Kidd
  • Nelly Mustafa
  • Zahida Bi
  • Josephine Kaye
  • Shadika Mohsin Patel
  • Maureen Kidd
  • Wendy Morse
  • Nageeba Alariqy
  • Elsie Smith
  • Kelly Stewart
  • Gwendoline Bound
  • Ruth Williams
  • Victoria Woodhall
  • Kelly Fitzgibbons (and her two daughters)
  • Caroline Walker
  • Katie Walker
  • Zobaidah Salangy
  • Betty Dobbin
  • Sonia Calvi
  • Maryan Ismail
  • Daneila Espirito Santo
  • Ruth Brown
  • Denise Keane-Barnett-Simmons
  • Jadwiga Szczygielsk
  • Emma Jane McParland
  • Louise Aitchison
  • Silke Hartshorne-Jones
  • Hyacinth Morris
  • Louise Smith
  • Claire Parry
  • Aya Hachem
  • Melissa Belshaw
  • Yvonne ‘Vonnie’ Lawson McCann
  • Lyndsey Alcock
  • Aneta Zdun
  • Nicoleta Zdun
  • Mandy Houghton
  • Amy-Leanne Stringfellow
  • Bibaa Henry
  • Nicole Smallman
  • Dawn Bennett
  • Gemma Marjoram
  • Karolina Zinkeviciene
  • Rosemary Hill
  • Jackie Hoadley
  • Khloemae Loy
  • Kerry Woolley
  • Shelly Clark
  • Bernadette Walker
  • Stella Frew
  • Dawn Fletcher
  • Deborah Jones/Hendrick
  • Patrycja Wyrebek
  • Therasia Gordon
  • Esther Egbon
  • Susan Baird
  • Balvinder Gahir
  • Lynda Cooper
  • Lorraine Cox
  • Suzanne Winnister
  • Maria Howarth
  • Abida Karim
  • Saman Mir Sacharvi
  • Vian Mangrio
  • Poorna Kaameshwari Sivaraj (and three-year-old son)
  • Louise Rump
  • Julie Williams
  • Rhonda Humphreys
  • Nicole McGregor
  • Angela Webber
  • Carole Wright
  • Sarah Smith
  • Ildiko Bettison
  • Kimberly Deakin
  • Marie Gladders
  • Paula Leather
  • Caroline Kayll
  • Lauren Mae Bloomer
  • Hansa Patel
  • Helen Bannister
  • Marta Vento
  • Andreia Patricia Rodriguez Guilherme
  • Joanna Borucka
  • Azaria Williams
  • Catherine Granger
  • Eileen Dean
  • Sue Addis
  • Carol Hart
  • Jacqueline Price
  • Mary Wells
  • Tiprat Argatu
  • Christie Frewin
  • Souad Bellaha
  • Ann Turner
  • N’Taya Elliott-Cleverley
  • Rose Marie Tinton
  • Ranjit Gill
  • Helen Joy
  • Emma Robertson
  • Nicole Anderson
  • Linda Maggs
  • Carol Smith
  • Sophie Moss
  • Christina Rowe
  • Susan Hannaby
  • Michelle Lizanec
  • Wieslawa Mierzejewska
  • Judith Rhead
  • Anna Ovsyannikova
  • Tina Eyre
  • Katie Simpson
  • Bennylyn Burke and her two-year-old daughter
  • Samantha Heap
  • Geetika Goyal
  • Imogen Bohajczuk
  • Wenjing Xu
  • Sarah Everard

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In a week that’s shown women often aren’t safe outdoors, this list of names also reminds us that so many women aren’t safe indoors, either. And with the knowledge there was a surge in the number of calls made to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline during the first three months of lockdown last year, it’s actually perhaps not such a surprising truth. 

In response to this, Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, told Stylist: “Recent events have made it starkly clear that not only are too many women at risk of violence in their own homes, but we are not safe or free on the streets either. We have seen an outpouring of anger, hurt, and grief from women as they see their own pain and experiences reflected in the awful recent news about Sarah Everard. My heart aches for everyone who knew and loved her.

“It is clear our justice system is not working, that our police and too many politicians fail women at every turn. Those with power and influence must step up and use it to make things better for women and girls. Enough is enough. We need to see ending violence against women and girls become a policing and political priority - not just in London, but across the country. We will accept nothing less.”

This is a view that has been echoed by women on Twitter over recent days.

“Women aren’t safe outside so they tell us to stay indoors. Well guess what? Many women aren’t safe indoors either. Perhaps it would be better to focus on the men beating and attacking us instead?” tweeted Dr Natalie Jester, along with a report on the increasing number of domestic abuse cases during the pandemic.

Journalist and editor Terri White shared: “As a girl, I was assaulted in my home by a stepdad. As a woman: a cab driver (getting me home ‘safe’), a stranger I fought off in the street. There is nothing *we* can do to keep ourselves safe. We’re at the mercy of the violence of men. They decide if, when – and whether we live.

“Until we *all* fully accept this basic point, we can never truly have a meaningful conversation about violence against women and girls by men. Never mind actually affect a shift in the violence itself.”

And Labour MP Dawn Butler, who also spoke in the International Women’s Day Debate 2021, has addressed the part of “structural misogyny” in all violence against women, summarising in a tweet: “Three [minutes] was not enough time but the #InternationalWomensDay debate was poignant. Structural misogyny and inequality is fuelling violence against women and girls.

“We need to: prevent, protect, prosecute.”

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Finally, men are being given tips on how to make women feel safe in public

It’s not our responsibility to teach others to play their part in ensuring a world that’s safe for women and girls, but right now it feels like it is. So, at a time when we want to channel our frustration and sadness to finally create change, what can we actually do?

Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline is free to call and available 24/7 on 0808 2000 247.

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…