By Vicky Witts | Head of Comment
Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa, and now Ashling Murphy. Women’s names are increasingly appearing in the headlines of newspapers in reports of almost unspeakable violence and tragedies.
Ashling Murphy, a 23 year old teacher and folk musician, was fatally attacked while jogging by a canal in her hometown of Tullamore in the Republic of Ireland, on the 12th of January. While a man has now been charged in connecting with her death, this tragic case has sparked a wave of support online, with the hashtag ‘#SheWasJustGoingForARun’ trending across social media platforms to raise awareness of the increasing reports of violence against women who were doing nothing more than an ‘everyday’ activity.
Sadly, Ashling Murphy’s case is not an isolated incident, and the safety of the streets for women is constantly being brought into question with new cases horrific situations. In her new 2-part documentary series ‘Stalkers’ for the BBC, Stacey Dooley shines a light on just one of many crimes women are facing in the UK and globally- stalking. Throughout her investigation, Dooley interviews victims, members of law enforcement, and even individuals charged with stalking, to better understand the terrible situations that victims face. There were many statistics and facts cited within her series, but perhaps the two most shocking were that 1 in 5 women in the UK will report being stalked in their lifetime, and of those arrested for stalking, 50% will likely reoffend. The fact that so many women experience these often life-changing situations, and punishment for perpetrators is seemingly ineffective, it is almost no surprise that many women are feeling unsafe doing things as simple as walking home from work, or going for a run in their own neighbourhood.
This is not to say that crimes against men are not also a pressing issue. In fact, Stacey Dooley also acknowledges that 1 in 10 men report being stalked, which is still a jarringly large number. However, with an average of one woman being killed by a man every three days according to the Femicide Census, it is clear that more needs to be done to make our streets safer for groups which are statistically more at risk, such as women, as well as more generally across society. The main issue is that places which should be safe: city centres, housing estates, and even our own homes, are becoming daunting potential crime scenes, as tragedies like that of Ashling Murphy are more frequently being brought to our attention in the news.
Male violence against women one of the leading causes of premature deaths of women across the globe, but the recent wave of gender-related crime is not limited to the tragically fatal cases of Sarah Everard and Ashling Murphy, as Stacey Dooley’s ‘Stalkers’ shows. Often crimes such as stalking and domestic violence against women goes unreported but are just another demonstration of how more needs to be done on a global and national scale to reduce crime, whether specifically gendered or not. Even recently, on the 30th of January, Manchester United footballer Mason Greenwood was arrested following accusations of domestic violence from his girlfriend, as images and videos surfaced online. This case specifically suggests the undeniable need for change throughout society in terms of the protection of women and the increasing need for new actions to tackle cases of domestic violence.
Following the case of Sarah Everard back in March 2021, the Government launched a new strategy focusing on ‘tackling violence against women and girls’ with the aim of increasing victim support and reducing violence against women on a large scale. However, as the tragic death of Ashling Murphy shows, none of the current measures are enough to protect women while doing even ‘everyday’ tasks. Something clearly needs to be done to keep streets safer, and as a matter of urgency.Victoria Witts Comment