THE starkly shocking facts of Sarah Everard’s death have shone a blazing spotlight on a terrible truth about this country: Women do not feel safe. And that is because they aren’t.
I know this for all sorts of reasons, most formatively from first-hand experience. In my early twenties I was attacked, in broad daylight on a street in London’s Knightsbridge.
A man came up behind me, put me in a headlock and put his hand up my skirt. He ripped into my tights and knickers and tried to sexually assault me.
As all women are, I was used to being prepared for the worst when walking home in the dark. But not at 3pm on one of London’s busiest streets.
Perhaps most shockingly, no one stopped to help me.
Although he abandoned his attack before I was harmed, I decided to report it to the police. My logic was that if someone was brazen enough to attack a woman in a public space, then who knows what else they might do.
Although many sex assaults are not taken seriously, mine was. I was asked to attend an identity parade (although I could not pick my attacker out as he was behind me when he struck).
But it turned out that he was a known suspect to the police and was later arrested for a serious rape.
Although I never felt quite as safe walking down the street again, I’m lucky in that I was not seriously hurt and there was no other long-lasting emotional trauma. It could have been so much worse.
TOLD THEY WERE 'ASKING FOR IT'
I shrugged it off and got on with my life. So much so that I forgot about it until I was filling out a Government form calling for evidence to reflect the recent public discussion about violence against women and girls to help them develop their strategy.
What I realised, filling out the form with the details of my attack, is that 30 years or so on, nothing much has changed. My daughter gets hassled in the street all the time by men. She does not feel comfortable going out on her own and her generation feel extremely annoyed that as women they get judged by what they wear and are told they were “asking for it” if anything happens.
Meanwhile, male violence against women is still commonplace.
Many women see it as a daily threat and one that is barely remarkable when it happens.
There are countless examples every week of male violence against women.
Like footballer Alhaji Sesay, 22, who this week was given a ten-year jail term for rape and attempted rape.
He had trapped a woman in a cubicle at a nightclub in Bristol. Sesay was arrested after she managed to escape his grip and raise the alarm.
But he also raped a woman in a London club after forcing his way into her cubicle. He was caught on CCTV casually striding to the toilets to start his attack.
What happened to her will affect the rest of her life.
In an impact statement she said: “I look at men differently now . . . anything can happen, anywhere.”
The woman he had attempted to rape said: “I am left in a constant state of hyper-vigilance.
“I see the worst of people when I used to see the best.”
In light of that, a ten-year jail sentence does not seem enough of a punishment, nor enough of a deterrent.
The latest figures show that only one in 20 rape allegations in London leads to a suspect being charged, even though the number of rape cases has risen.
And only 6,883 of the 56,933 allegations of other sexual offences between May 2016 and February 2021 were solved, according to the Met’s own figures.
We all know — of course we do — that not all men are rapists and murderers.
But unfortunately, as long as women are randomly killed or raped in toilet cubicles, we cannot possibly feel safe.
Something needs to change about the way we penalise male violence against women.
Prison sentences for men convicted of rape need to be longer and tougher.
We need to take a zero-tolerance approach towards violence against women.
I had a fantastic text from the NHS last week calling me to have my vaccine on Friday.
I really could not wait to get it done and skipped to the Science Museum for my appointment with a smile on my face.
It took three minutes — in and out. I know some people are worried about blood clots but given what a rarity they are (compared with, say, women taking the contraceptive Pill) I was really not put off.
Having had the vaccine I feel I can now get on with my life and, for the sake of my kids, I really want this infernal lockdown to end.
It seems so unfair that their generation is paying the price of lockdown when the effects on them are marginal.
Accept body and its 'flaws'
I have so much respect for Nadia Sawalha and her campaign to accept our bodies just the way they are, something we should all aspire to do.
It has not come easy to her. Nadia says that she will have to work on accepting her body for the “rest of her life” after years of thinking too much about the way she “didn’t look”.
I really like her suggestion that we all practise “body acceptance” rather than “body confidence”.
She says she favours the fake-it-till-you-make-it approach, which I applaud heartily, rather than just wishing things were different.
Surely the best route to confidence is through acceptance of who we are.
Imagine a world where all women just accepted themselves no matter what they looked like, and without pointing out every little “problem” and “flaw”.
It’s quite liberating, isn’t it.
We are so conditioned to hate our bodies and the way we look, comparing ourselves to others so we do not deem ourselves to be “perfect”.
But how much time have we all wasted over the years wishing our bodies looked different – and where exactly did it ever get us?
Let’s all take a leaf out of Nadia’s book.
One thing that made me laugh, though, is that Nadia, who is 56, said that her two daughters – Maddie, 18, and Kiki, 13 – find her empowering posts “embarrassing” as young people would rather their mothers just shut up.
Most kids are embarrassed by their parents for breathing, let alone stripping off, so she really shouldn’t let them put her off.
Oscar bravo, Brits!
So pleasing how many Brits are nominated for this year’s Oscars.
Sacha Baron Cohen, Carey Mulligan, Olivia Colman, Daniel Kaluuya and Sir Anthony Hopkins plus Vanessa Kirby, Gary Oldman and Riz Ahmed are all in the frame.
It’s the most diverse Oscars ever, with nine of the 20 acting nominees from ethnic minority backgrounds, which is fantastic.
There are also two women nominated for best director, the first time more than one has been shortlisted for that prize in the awards’ 93-year history.
One of these, Emerald Fennell, is a stand-out nominee. She is best known for playing Camilla Parker-Bowles in The Crown but she is clearly multi-talented – the head writer and brains behind season two of Killing Eve, author of several award-winning young-adult novels and an acclaimed director and producer.
Now her first feature film, Promising Young Woman, which she wrote, produced and directed, is up for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay – and Best Actress (Carey Mulligan).
Last week the BBC reprimanded host Naga Munchetty and reminded her of their impartiality rules after she liked anti-Tory tweets about an interview on BBC Breakfast.
She had giggled as her co-host Charlie Stayt mocked the size of the Union Flag in Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick’s office and even laughed at a picture of the Queen hanging on his wall during an interview.
I can forgive the liking of anti-Tory tweets. We live in a free country after all.
But I do wonder how the BBC can say that sniggering at the Union Jack and the Queen were “light-hearted, off the cuff” and not intended to cause offence.
Since when has the British flag and the Queen been something to mock and sneer at by presenters of the British Broadcasting Company?
The BBC used to be one of the most beloved, valued and trusted organisations in the UK.
Is it any wonder it no longer is?
Gotta be kidding
Sorry, but would even the most talented child in the world have won a Grammy if she was not the daughter of Beyonce and Jay Z?
Yes, sure, Brown Skin Girl is a great video, but Blue Ivy, below, jointly winning a Grammy for it, as a “featured artist”, just seems a bit mad.
Especially when you consider the competition she pipped to the post in the process included the likes of Future, Drake, Harry Styles, Anderson Paak and Woodkid.
And other than being the daughter of the world’s most famous power couple, I can’t quite work out what she won a Grammy for – she’s only nine years old.
Itsy-bitsy bit silly, Khloe
No surprise that Khloe Kardashian has launched a range of swimwear to add to her clothing, beauty and collagen businesses, and good for her.
But what was interesting was her claim that her swimwear will give you coverage to make you: “Look and feel confident and sexy.”
Bearing in mind there is more material in a restaurant napkin than in her bikini, I’m not sure what coverage she is talking about, as most of your bits will end up exposed.
It’s quite possible, however, just as my daughter kindly pointed out to me, that I’m not her target market.
So no need to worry about it.
Line of Duty returns
TONIGHT is one of the most exciting nights of the year.
Why? Because series six of Line Of Duty starts.
The burning questions the BBC1 cop drama has to answer are: Was there more to the Caddy’s dying declaration?
And who the hell is the fourth H?
Please don’t let it be Hastings – as, mother of God, that would be quite some twist, fella.
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