Duchess Kate visits Sarah Everard memorial as attention focuses on women’s safety in public

BY: KATIE KINDELAN, ABC NEWS

(LONDON) — Duchess Kate paid a surprise visit Saturday to the growing memorial in London for Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old U.K. woman who was found dead days after she disappeared while walking home alone from a friend’s apartment.

Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, left flowers at the memorial at Clapham Common in South London, where Everard was last seen on March 3.

Kate, a mother of three, paused at the memorial right alongside other mourners, forgoing any of the usual pomp and circumstance that accompanies a royal appearance.

The duchess wanted to pay her respects to Everard and show solidarity, remembering her own experiences walking in London after dark before she wed Prince William, according to a royal source.

Everard, a marketing executive, had been at a friend’s house on March 3 and disappeared while walking back to her home in Brixton, according to Metropolitan Police.

On Friday, police announced that a body found earlier in the week in a wooded area in Kent, about 55 miles southeast from where Everard was last seen, was in fact Everard.

Wayne Couzens, a serving Metropolitan Police officer, was charged with murder and kidnapping in connection with her death, police said.

A woman was also arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender.

Just hours after Kate’s visit to the memorial Saturday, a peaceful protest held there to draw attention to the dangers faced by women turned violent when police began to handcuff several women and lead them away, as seen in widely-shared social media videos. Photos also captured police detaining women.

The lawfulness of the vigil was questioned by police because of Britain’s lockdown measures for coronavirus.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called for a full independent investigation into Saturday’s events. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday he was “concerned” by the footage he saw, which he described as “distressing,” according to BBC News.

The turmoil surrounding Everard’s disappearance and death has put a spotlight in the U.K. on the harassment and violence women say they face, and constantly fear, while walking alone in public, especially at night.

The safety conversation sparked by Everard’s death in the U.K. is similar to ongoing conversations in the United States after the murders of several women in similar circumstances.

In August, 25-year-old Sydney Sutherland disappeared after going for a run in Jackson County, Arkansas. Her body was discovered two days later near her home and a 28-year-old man was arrested and booked into jail in connection to Southerland’s death.

Sutherland’s death quickly drew comparisons to the deaths of at least five women who in recent years were also each killed while out for a run: Mollie Tibbetts, who was found stabbed to death after going for a run near her Iowa home; Wendy Martinez, who was stabbed to death while jogging in a busy, well-lit area of Washington, D.C.; Karina Vetrano, who was found dead after going on an evening jog near her New York home; Vanessa Marcotte, who was killed as she was out jogging in broad daylight in Massachusetts; and Ally Brueger, who was shot in the back while running in Michigan.

In another incident, a 22-year-old collegiate golf player was killed while she was golfing alone on a course in Ames, Iowa.

In 2019, Amanda Deibert, a television and comic book writer, tweeted about a conversation in her neighborhood moms’ group about all the things they use and think about to protect themselves while exercising outside.

“One of my mom groups has a thread that is just women listing and recommending which kind of protection they take when them when they go out running (Ie. pepper spray, alarm necklaces, whistles, etc) in case you wondered what being a woman is like,” wrote Deibert, a Los Angeles-based mom.

“Everyone had an answer and there were lots of answers,” Deibert told “Good Morning America” at the time. “It made me think of all the things that I do without thinking about it, like never going at night, never going alone, the times I’ve walked with keys between my knuckles.”

“When I was reading the thread that all just kind of hit me, that is something we all do, all the time, without thinking about it,” she said. “The nonchalance of it is what hit me and why I tweeted it.”

And too often, even when women follow all safety tips, they still find themselves in harm’s way, as noted in a viral Twitter thread by Kate McCann, a political correspondent at Sky News in the U.K.

“What happened to Sarah Everard has hit home hard for so many women because we make the calculations she did every day too,” McCann wrote. “We take the longer, better-lit route, push the fear aside for the voice that says ‘don’t be daft, you’ve every right to walk home alone at night and be safe."”

After detailing the usual safety tips mentioned by experts — from not listening to music while walking to gripping your keys between your fingers — McCann notes that sometimes it is not enough.

“You’re a grown woman and in no other area of your life do you feel so vulnerable. You resent it even though you understand there is a risk – however small. It is frustrating and tiring and constant,” she wrote. “And yet sometimes, despite all those calculations, it still isn’t enough.”

Reclaim These Streets, a movement organized in the wake of Everard’s death, is now calling for change to make public spaces safer for women. The group met separately Monday with Mayor Khan and Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick, who has faced scrutiny for police officers’ actions at the vigil Saturday.

Anna Birley, one of the organizers of Reclaim These Streets, a movement organized in the wake of Everard’s death, told ABC News that the group wanted to make it clear that the burden should not fall on women to adjust for their safety.

Speaking of Everard, Birley said, “She stuck to well-lit streets. She was on the main road rather than the back streets. She wore bright colors. They’re all the things we all do when we’re walking home alone in the dark. I think that’s what makes it really resonate because I have yet to find a single woman who hasn’t had that experience.”

A self-defense expert’s advice for women

It is impossible to prevent every attack, experts say, and women should not feel the pressure to do so.

What women can do is empower themselves so they feel stronger and more confident out in the world, Jennifer Cassetta, a self-defense expert and creator of the Stilettos and Self Defense DVDs, told ABC News in 2018 after a female jogger was killed in Washington, D.C.

Here are her three tips.

1. Know the weapons you have on your body and how to use them

Run or walk powerfully with your shoulders back and head up, making eye contact with every person in your path, Cassetta recommends.

If you are attacked, dropping down to a squat or a lunge will drop your center of gravity and make you harder to the throw to the ground, according to Cassetta.

To fight back, Cassetta says to “acquire and fire.”

“The eyes, throat and groin are most effective targets because they are all soft targets where you can do the most amount of damage with the least amount of effort,” she said. “Scratch or gouge the eyes, give a punch to the throat to disrupt breathing and give a punch or a knee or an elbow to the groin.”

2. Be aware of your surroundings

Women should be “alert but calm” when they’re out and about, scanning for red flags and not getting too deep into thought, Cassetta says.

“When we’re being alert, our intuition is our inner GPS, it gives us signals and sends us messages,” she said. “If we’re too caught up in our to-do list or what we’re stressed about, we can’t hear it.”

When it comes to hearing, Cassetta also says don’t forgo headphones, but do have the volume low enough so that you can hear the sounds around you.

Let other people know of your surroundings too. Designate a friend or family member as your “safety buddy,” the person you text to let know when and where you are running and when you will return.

3. Arm yourself with non-lethal weapons

The types of “non-lethal weapons” Cassetta recommends women arm themselves with include pepper spray, a personal alarm and a sharp object worn as a piece of jewelry — what she calls “weapon jewelry.”

“They make you that much more aware because you’re holding onto it and aware of it,” she said. “But you need to make sure you know how to use them. If you have pepper spray, make sure you know how to use it and have it accessible.”

ABC News’ Ella Torres and Meredith Deliso contributed to this report.

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