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Death of Sarah Everard highlights the stark reality of violence against women – and it's happening here in Caithness and Sutherland


By Contributor

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Emma Fraser, team leader and domestic abuse specialist for Caithness and Sutherland Women’s Aid, reflects on the reaction to the 33-year-old's death

A vigil planned to remember Sarah Everard was planned for Inverness but cancelled after advice from police. Picture: Gary Anthony
A vigil planned to remember Sarah Everard was planned for Inverness but cancelled after advice from police. Picture: Gary Anthony

With the news of Sarah Everard’s death, this last couple of weeks have been profoundly shocking and heartbreaking. We have spent time reflecting on the response and what we’ve learned, in all honesty and with incredible sadness, is that there is still so much work to do around violence against women on an international, national and local level.

This week, we want to speak to our community in Caithness and Sutherland about this.

Violence against women is our every day: our team commit and dedicate their professional, working lives to raising awareness and supporting women, children and young people for whom this is a lived and constant reality.

We are acutely aware of what life is like for women and how unsafe the world is, not only as a team of domestic abuse specialists, but as women.

Last week a women walking home did not arrive. A stark reminder of the reality of violence against women.

For every four women you know, statistically, one of them will have experienced domestic abuse and for every five women, statistically, one will have been a victim of rape and sexual violence. Ninety-seven per cent of young women have experienced sexual harassment and, on average, one woman is killed by a man every three days.

Why are we ignoring this? Why do we think this isn’t a problem? Why aren’t more of us outraged?

This is not last week’s news. It doesn’t stay there, it shouldn’t stay there and quite frankly, it can’t stay there.

We need to start treating violence against women with more urgency, determination and, to be honest, with more bravery. It won’t go away unless we all do something. It is not good enough any more to ignore it.

Members of the public left messages, flowers and images in memory of the 33-year-old.
Members of the public left messages, flowers and images in memory of the 33-year-old.

If you are in a position where you can ignore it, please acknowledge and respect that this is a privilege you have that others do not.

We need you to understand, this isn’t a “city” problem. It is a problem here.

We are currently supporting 89 women and 48 children and young people locally who have experienced domestic abuse. We know there will be many more.

Perpetrators of domestic abuse and violence against women walk and live among us. As specialists working locally, we know this all too well.

We need you, our community, to play your part. We need our community to start listening, learning and taking action. Until people start challenging themselves to reflect, be critical of and consider how thoughts, beliefs, speech and actions (or lack of) contribute; and until real action is taken, nothing will change.

We were encouraged by the local engagement in the Change Her Story campaign we ran alongside other groups in December and this gave us hope that conversations were starting at a local level.

However, too often we hear, “Why doesn’t she just leave?”, “That doesn’t happen up here”, “What was she wearing?”, “Why was she walking home alone?” and “I don’t believe her”.

Local people joined the Change Her Story campaign in December.
Local people joined the Change Her Story campaign in December.

We try to change conversations and challenge beliefs and attitudes, but the reality is that we are a small team and we need you, our community, to do more.

Last week was a week that ended celebrating mothers and began with International Women’s Day. This year’s theme encouraged everyone to choose to challenge and through the heartbreaking and disturbing events that unfolded, it has provided each and every one of us with an obligation to do so.

Challenging violence against women starts by listening to, believing and not blaming women. It begins with quiet reflection – reading, watching and listening. It begins with conversations with family and friends. It starts by taking steps to make spaces feel and be safe for women. It begins by not dismissing this problem as something that “doesn’t happen up here”. And it starts by abandoning the “not all men” narrative.

We know not all men are perpetrators, time and energy trying to prove otherwise changes nothing and does not recognise the role that we all play.

As a team we choose to challenge to make the world, the country and our community a more equal, inclusive and safer place. But we need your help.

We turn to you, our community, and ask: what will you do?

Caithness and Sutherland Women's Aid.
Caithness and Sutherland Women's Aid.

Need help?

CASWA can be contacted on 0345 408 0151 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) or info@caswa.org.uk

To find out more about the group's work locally visit www.caswa.org.uk

The Scottish Domestic Abuse & Forced Marriage Helpline is available 24/7 on 0800 027 1234.



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