“Just in case I’m murdered, this is where I’ll be.”
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sent this message. It’s said with a modicum of jest – just enough humour to make the stark reality endurable. But it is also sent matter-of-factly, with not a hint of irony or melodrama.
It is a part of the routine. Keys, money, phone, mask, “just in case I’m murdered…” message.
It is sent because the threat of a man doing me harm is an accepted reality. Note that the message is not sent to reduce my risk of being murdered – I can’t do anything to alleviate that threat. There’s nothing I can do ‘right’. If a man wants to murder me, then there is nothing I can do. Except give my loved ones a fighting chance of finding my body, or at least identify the man who did it.
I have tried to avoid this week’s news coverage of Sarah Everard’s tragic case. Perhaps it is disrespectful to close your eyes and ears to the details of how a woman’s life was stolen from her, because the reality should not be ignored. However, I do feel somewhat justified in my avoidance of the coverage because I am a woman and I know the reality of the situation. It is not me who needs educating on the daily dangers women face. It is not me who needs to realise that this is a gendered issue. It is not me who needs to be aware that there is absolutely nothing Sarah could have done differently. Because I know all of this. I live it every single day. None of this is new information to us women who send the “just in case I’m murdered…” message day in day out.
So please forgive me if I bury my head in the sand, just on this occasion. Because right now I do not have the mental bandwidth to face this head on. Perhaps my reluctance stems from an ingrained acceptance of our situation. I’ve accepted that one day a man could just decide to murder me and there’s nothing I would be able to do about that. I’ve accepted this to such a degree, that sending the words “just in case I’m murdered…” does not jolt me with anxiety or panic as it should. I can send it as casually as I would any other message.
Right now, I can’t let my mind actually think about this any deeper because, when I do, it becomes horrifyingly obvious how unacceptable this is. Worse still, it becomes depressingly obvious that the situation is not changing. And there is nothing we as women can do make it change. Until men accept that this is a gendered issue, until men hold other men accountable, until men dismantle the systems designed to protect the men who harm women…the situation cannot be changed.
And if I can’t change it, then right now I cannot allow myself to think about it.