UNIVERSITY of Worcester chiefs have called for urgent action to tackle violence against women in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard and subsequent protests across the country.
Ms Everard went missing while walking home from a friend’s house on March 3.
Her body was later found in woodland in Kent and Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has been charged with the marketing executive’s kidnap and murder. He will stand trial in October.
A vigil in Ms Everard’s memory on Clapham Common made the headlines after the Metropolitan Police sought to uphold Coronavirus restrictions but were criticised for the response by campaigners for their approach.
The University is deeply committed to tackling all forms of violence and abuse and has been at the forefront of research and education for more than a decade. The University’s Bystander Intervention Programme has seen hundreds of students trained to spot and intervene in matters of violence or harassment.
Dr Gill Harrop, Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology, who runs the Bystander Intervention Programme, said:
“Women are taught from a young age it’s our responsibility to spot the risks and protect ourselves from harm, whether that means holding our keys between our fingers as we walk home, not walking alone in the dark, not drinking too much.
“The list of ‘don’ts’ goes on and on, and the upshot is the blame ends up being placed firmly on women to keep ourselves safe, rather than on the perpetrators of the violence.
“It took only minutes after her disappearance was reported in the press for questions to appear online about why she was walking on her own at night, as if she was somehow to blame for what happened to her.
“The public outcry to Sarah’s case, and the rejection of the victim blaming surrounding it have sent a clear message: women and girls want to be safe from abuse or harassment, and stop the victim blaming.
“We need to shift the focus from the victim’s actions to instead look at the perpetrators’ behaviour and the violent actions that they chose to take.
“But of course, this cannot just be a women’s problem. It has to be raised and discussed by men as well, in order to acknowledge the problem, and commit to stepping up and speaking out against misogyny, violence and abuse.
“The responsibility is on all of us to call out problematic behaviour, not just those affected by it.”
A post-mortem examination has taken place but no cause of death has been released.
An inquest into the death of Ms Everard is likely to be opened later this week, Kent County Council has said.