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Time to Talk About It: Women victims is there a double standard ?

The name Sarah Everard sent shockwaves around the UK as her horrific death at the hands of Met Police Officer Wayne Couzens was uncovered in March 2021. This started important conversations about the safety of women and has led to a #ReclaimTheStreets Movement. Women of all colours spoke up about their own stories of sexual assault, harassment and feeling unsafe in the presence of men. Most recently a UN report found that “97% of women have been sexually assaulted”[1] which is frightening statistic. With all these conversations around gender violence it has sparked debates on the difference in cases that get publicised and the way they are handled by the police.

Blessing Olusegun was a 21-year-old student from London whose body was found on Bexhill seafront last September. Her death received minimal media coverage and there is belief that her death was not investigated as thoroughly as it would of been if Blessing was white. Senior Investigating Officer Detective Pippa Nicklin states “It has been reported that we have not properly investigated Blessing’s death because of her ethnicity and we strongly refute these claims”[2]. To say colour did not play a part in how the UK police and media handled Blessing Olusegun and Sarah Everard’s cases is naive, there is truth to the fact that there is institutionalised racism apparent in both establishments. It is evident Blessing’s family deserve the same answered questions that Sarah’s family received, and both deserve equal amounts of effort, time and exposure from both police and the media.

Both women had their whole lives ahead of them, and to see their lives cut short is an injustice. The aftermath of Blessing Olusegun’s death is also an injustice, her death was treated as an “oh by the way, did you know this happened” more so than a serious crime. It is, unfortunately not to unorthodox to suggest that ‘race’ is a contributing factor as to why the approach to both cases was different and in an increasing political climate it does not aid the situation. Black women have to shout louder to make sure their voices are heard and this so evident in comparing these two cases. Blessing was an afterthought a common narrative for many, in a society where we overlook Black women and their stories. It is a shame that so many women of colour are not afforded the same concern as their white counterparts.

Discrimination is such a large intersectionality and so we have to look at circumstances. In regard to location Sarah’s story takes place in London the capital. This is going to garner much more attention as opposed to Blessing who was found in Bexhill, and for example Libby Squire a white student killed in Hull. Class is a huge factor girls in care and women engaged in sex work no matter what colour tend to attract very little attention when they are groomed, assaulted or murdered. It is almost a media jackpot as to which stories are covered; The narrative has to reflect what fits a good ‘story’ at that time as indifferent as that may be. In response to the recent deaths, comments from online users suggest that is had nothing to do with race, class or location but a ‘pretty privilege’. Both are young, attractive and educated women if it was an older and conventionally ‘unattractive’ woman, it is suggested that people would simply look the other way. However, we cannot substantiate an argument on ‘whatboutry’, we can ask ourselves why for example has Madeline McCann’s case, had so many resources and time put into its publication and investigation, when there are thousands of children who go missing abroad every year. Ultimately the press is the catalyst in deciding which cases are continued to be written and talked about and which are quietly forgotten about.

For both Blessing and Sarah and every missing or murdered woman it creates a collective consciousness of grief, fear and anger. In the future we can hope that all these women’s stories are told and investigated equally.

Petitions for both cases are linked down below.

Petitions

Petition · Sarah Everard’s Law – Criminal defence cannot question the victim’s clothing in a case · Change.org

Petition · justice for blessing olusegun · Change.org


Bibliography

[1] Katsha Habiba (2021) “Im a Black woman like Blessing Olusegun. Would anybody care if I went missing?” https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/blessing-olusegun-sarah-everard-black-woman-b1821959.html ( Accessed 02/04/2021)

[2] Wynn-Davies, Stephen (2021) “Blessing Olusegun: Police provide more details on investigation into young woman’s death in Bexhill” https://www.bexhillobserver.net/news/crime/blessing-olusegun-police-provide-more-details-on-investigation-into-young-womans-death-in-bexhill-3168452

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