Sarah Everard case proves women can do everything right and still end up dead

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London's a dangerous place, you'll be warned if you choose to live here.

The well-meaning worrier telling you this might be referring to terror attacks, statistically more of a threat to those living in major cities, or they might mean knife crime, more of a UK-wide phenomenon.

But they also mean it's full of dangerous men, which sadly is the case in every corner of the Earth. The groper on the Tube, the lads clustered outside the pub, the guy who works in your building and has always given you a bad feeling.

You choose to live here because it's vivid and loud and full of opportunities you don't get elsewhere, so you have to find ways to quiet the hum of anxiety that you're going to end up as someone's victim.

You mute your podcast as you stride through the empty station after a late shift, trying not to look like an easy target. You casually toss your hair so you can sneak a glance behind you.

You do these things to reassure yourself but also to prove that, if the worst should really happen, you were doing everything right.

You chant statistics in your head, reminding yourself women face a greater risk from men they already know – hardly a comfort – than the shadowy stranger lurking on the corner.

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Ghoulish true crime podcasts and TV have brainwashed women into hysteria, seeing danger where there is none, you say – until something so cartoonishly horrible happens to someone in your very own city.

Someone like Sarah Everard, like Sabina Nessa, like Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry.

Those illusions of control – the self defence classes, the keys between the fingers – crumble away and you're forced to concede that you place your life in the hands of strangers every time you walk out the door.

You have to find a way to live with the fact that half the world can physically dominate you with ease and a sizeable percentage of them want to.

You have to live with the knowledge that many of them have not only their physical strength but the weight of institutional power.

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Despite what the Met would have us believe, Wayne Couzens was not a "former officer" – he'd completed a shift just hours before he drove up behind Sarah on that road in Clapham.

He'd passed all the screenings and tests required to be accepted into an elite Westminster-based unit of officers tasked with protecting VIPs. He was exactly the figure of authority in whom we're told to place our trust.

In a weak attempt at patching over the damage to the force's reputation, the Met has told women to "wave down a bus" if they feel uncomfortable in the male officer's presence.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse suggested civilians "seek verification about an officer's bona fides" before allowing themselves to be arrested.

This baffling advice is wildly insulting to Sarah, implying she had any kind of control over her fate, and insulting to everyone who has even the faintest idea about how the police operate. Arguing with an officer is a surefire way to get your head slammed into the ground and a criminal conviction permanently lodged in your history.

Taking the well-lit street home, wearing sensible shoes, keeping a friend on the phone – none of these precautions are any match for someone determined to inflict harm, especially someone with Couzens' resources and power.

Existing in a cage of your own fear is no way to live. Women have to make choices every day about how much risk they're prepared to take, and they deserve not to have those choices turned against them.

Sophie Bateman is an Assistant News Editor at the Daily Star.

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  • London
  • Sarah Everard
  • Crime

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