Laura Bates: “It’s been a horrible week for women – it’s like we’re being wasted on a massive scale”
It has been a terrible week for the women. As we learn that Sarah Everard’s killer has deliberately abused her position as a cop to trap her in his car, handcuff her and pretend to arrest her, our screens are filled with other devastating updates as well. We learn that Sabina Nessa was murdered in a “premeditated and predatory” attack involving “extreme violence”. We have read the utterly heartbreaking victim impact statements provided by Sarah Everard’s family, while the families of woman and three children murdered in Derbyshire speak of ‘indescribable pain’.
Headlines scramble for space alongside other stories of oppression and abuse of women: Olympic speed skater Elise Christie speaks for the first time about her experience of being drugged and raped, while Britney Spears continues the battle to free herself from a tutelage that many consider abusive and unnecessary, imposed by her own father.
All over the world, the chasm of gender inequalities is widening: we can see of Texas women protest against new abortion law that stripped their right to control their own bodies; girls in Afghanistan prevented from returning to school; a missing Chinese feminist and labor rights activist, feared inmate.
It is hopelessly painful for many women to read these stories: to be faced with the reality of our own oppression every time we watch the news or watch social media. For survivors of sexual and domestic abuse, the stories can trigger debilitating flashbacks and PTSD. For those who think about their own “near misses” and their experiences of being followed, harassed, criticized, it is a time of fury, mourning, all-consuming grief. We are exhausted by the constant reminders of our lack of security, of the dangers we face on a daily basis. Every woman I know is a survivor of some kind of sexual harassment, assault, or abuse herself. A permanent collective trauma, unrecognized, unresolved.
Every woman I know is a survivor of some kind of sexual harassment, assault, or abuse herself. A permanent collective trauma, unrecognized, unresolved.
What makes it so much worse is the feeling that even now: Even though these stories quickly follow each other on the evening news, we are still told that the women themselves are responsible for fixing the problem. Yet there does not appear to be any accountability or even recognition that these are institutionalized problems that must have systemic solutions. It is as if we were ignited on a large scale gas.
As the news breaks Everard killer Wayne Couzens was involved in racist, homophobic and misogynist WhatsApp group where he allegedly exchanged “discriminatory” messages with five other police officers, police still failed to recognize that this was a systemic problem, not a “bad apple” case. Worse, the very day this information comes out, police are busy absurdly advising women to try to report a passing bus if they do not feel safe in an interaction with a police officer alone and be “In the street” on when they can be arrested.
Even now, even in the midst of it all, we are still adding to the ridiculous and endless list of ways women are supposed to be responsible for “protecting themselves” from kidnapping, rape and murder.
Don’t tell me that we should take care of each other, or practice self-care, or any other solution that depends on even more effort and responsibility on the part of women. What would help would be to recognize that this is an epidemic. So that the police never again describe the death of a woman every three days at the hands of a man as an “isolated incident”. A recognition of the huge structural failings of the police and an independent investigation into institutionalized misogyny. A hot bath and a candle are not going to give me relief. Only accountability and systemic action will do it.
READ MORE: Until we admit the enormity of male violence, we won’t be able to eradicate it