'Don't blame the victim' following Sarah Everard disappearance

Diane Abbott MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health, speaks during the third day of the Labour Par

Diane Abbott MP, was the first Black woman MP and has served Hackney North and Stoke Newington since 1987.  - Credit: Empics Entertainment

On the March 3 Sarah Everard vanished after leaving her friend’s house in Clapham at night. It is a case that has caught the public imagination in a very sad way and has left most women thinking about their personal safety.

I don’t drive and have been single for most of my life. So over the years, I have often found myself walking home after dark on my own. I do this less now, because being a reasonably well known Black female MP makes you a target. 

But thinking about the Sarah Everard case made me realise how often I had found myself on the street at night on the way home from a friend's house. And I was surprised to realise that for years I had taken the threat of male violence as a given.

So much so that, if I was walking down a quiet street after dark and heard a man’s footsteps, I would automatically cross the road or stand still and let them pass me. I consider myself quite brave and bold, but even I was conditioned to guard against male violence.

I have never allowed fear of street violence to actually stop me going out, but I have been very aware of that violence nonetheless. 


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When the disappearance of Sarah Everard hit the headlines, there were some commentators saying that she should not have been out that late on her own anyway.

This is ridiculous and just blaming the victim.

Sarah Everard disappeared in Clapham on March 3

Sarah Everard disappeared in Clapham on March 3 - Credit: Metropolitan Police

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It is also true that more women are killed and attacked by their partners or someone they know than by complete strangers late at night. But I hope the terrible disappearance of Sarah Everard will cause us all to have a discussion about women’s safety.

Women should not be frightened going out late at night. And people should not be saying that, if women go out after dark and something happens, it is somehow their own fault.

Early in the twentieth century, women over the 21 got the right to vote. In recent decades women have moved closer to economic equality. Now we need to have the right to go after dark without worrying about male violence. That would be real social equality and a tribute to Sarah Everard. 

  • Diane Abbott is MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

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