By Theo Burman
The Student Officer Team at Durham SU has today released a statement concerning violence against women, in the aftermath of the death of Durham alumnus Sarah Everard, published on the SU website.
The statement, signed by Sarah McAllister, Seun Twins, Nailah Haque, Anna Marshall and Ewan Swift, focuses on Sarah and her family, stressing the importance of respecting their wishes.
“At this moment in time, Sarah’s family and friends must be going through an unimaginable ordeal. Anything we have to say, we want to approach with sensitivity for her loved ones. Sarah is not just a photo in the media, but a young woman that deserves respect and privacy, and did not choose to be the face of a national outcry.”
The statement criticises responses to Sarah’s death that place responsibility on women, saying that “it just gives us a list of reasons why we are to blame for the things other people do to hurt us.”
“It teaches us to internalise violating acts against us as something which we could have prevented. It teaches guilt, and means we are less likely to tell someone if something does happen.”
The officers also addressed the “disturbing images” of police removing women from the vigils for Sarah, and drew comparisons to responses to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah.
“Last week began with seeing social media flooded with the celebration of International Women’s Day, and yet it was the same week that we witnessed Meghan Markle open up about her mental health and in response be told she was lying. It was the same week that we faced the deeply upsetting news about the death of Sarah Everard.”
The statement also stresses the importance to look after mental health and signposted several resources, including Nightline and the fundraiser for Wearside Women in Need organised by St Cuthbert’s, Sarah’s college. The officers also promoted an online vigil, which will happen tonight at 6pm, co-hosted by the Women’s Association.
The statement comes in light of national mourning after Sarah’s remains were found last week. The officers’ full statement can be found here.
Image: Adeline Zhao