Women’s safety has been on the top of many women's minds following the murder of Sarah Everard.
Everard was a 33-year-old marketing executive who disappeared on March 3 while walking home from a friend’s house in London. A week later, her body was found over 50 miles away, in a wooded area in Kent. Wayne Couzens, an elite officer with London's Metropolitan Police, has since been charged with her kidnapping and murder.
NBC’s Kelly Cobiella reported for Weekend TODAY that the global outrage following her tragic death has been amplified following a vigil held in honor of Everard that led to police arresting women for breaking COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Around 1,000 people had ended up attending the vigil, even after it was officially cancelled, according to NBC News.
Across the world, women have come together to share their own fears and experiences with harassment. Everard's tragic death has struck a chord with women globally, inspiring them to use the hashtags "#ReclaimTheseStreets" and "#TextMeWhenYouGetHome" across social media to share what women do to feel safe when out walking alone.
“I thought I was an overprotective mother so I was surprised to see millions of women out there, their sisters and mothers and friends, asking other women to text them when they get home,” Diana Urban, a mother from Colorado, told Cobiella Saturday. Urban shared that her daughter sends her text messages every night when she is leaving work as a precaution.
When asked if safety is always on her mind, Urban’s daughter, Megan, responded in a separate video interview, “Even on my keys, on my keychain for my car, I have a mini mace. I have a stick that can hit into a window — little things that just in case something happens to me along that 30-minute drive — I’ll have on me, no matter what.”
Women's stories are highlighting their frustrations that there is a burden on women to keep themselves safe without a call for men to change their behavior towards women.
“We have to always keep an eye on each other and we often are portrayed as paranoid when we call out or when we say like, ‘Oh, this is our realities,’” a 28-year-old woman, who only wanted to be identified by her first name Naomi, told Cobiella. “But really, this is what we see and live every day.”
Evy Poumpouras, a former special agent with the U.S. Secret Service and a judge on Bravo's "Spy Games," told Cobiella, “Gender-based violence has always been an issue.
“... And I think it's teaching young men and boys that this is not how we behave,” she continued. “Teaching women to stand up, speak up and fight.”
Poumpouras shared the three basic safety rules that she personally follows, encouraging women to stick to busy streets when they are walking alone, stay away from poorly-lit places, as well as avoiding taking long walks at night by themselves.
Even with safety measures in place, some women are still experiencing fear disproportionately. A Gallup poll showed that 77% of white women feel safe when walking alone at night, whereas 67% of Hispanic women, 63% of Asian women, and 51% of Black women felt safe.
Earlier this week, NBC News foreign correspondent Molly Hunter spoke with Jamie Klingler, an organizer for the group called Reclaim These Streets, pointing out that Everard was walking on a well-lit road in central London.
“But that does lead to question, even if she was drunk, even if it was later at night, this wasn’t her fault,” Klingler explained. “And it’s not our fault, but constantly the onus is put on us to protect ourselves.”
Rothna Begum, a senior women’s rights researcher with Human Rights Watch, told Hunter, “I think the reason why the killing of Sarah Everard’s murder has shocked us all is because it could have been any one of us.
"Women have constantly been told how to keep safe, but actually the onus should be on men," she added. "It is men who are killing women.”