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One of the 97%

By McKenzie Ward

Phone? Check.

Wallet? Check.

My pink pepper spray canister that I have carried with me since I was 15? Check.

On March 3, 33-year-old Sarah Everard was walking home from Brixton in England at 9 p.m. when she suddenly disappeared, according to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

Seven days later, police found human remains in a wooded area, and just two days later, they

confirmed the remains belonged to Sarah, according to the WSJ.

She did everything women are told to do when walking alone – walked on busy main streets and talked on the phone with someone.

Despite doing everything she was taught to do, Sarah never made it home that night.

She was murdered.

According to the WSJ, her alleged killer is Wayne Couzens, a police officer – an individual tasked with keeping those like Sarah and I safe when walking home.

Who are women supposed to trust when an individual whose career was centered around protecting others, is allegedly the reason Sarah did not make it home on March 3?

Her death set off worldwide mourning and outrage. Following her death, hundreds of individuals attended a vigil in South London Park which was later broken up by Metropolitan Police who claimed it violated social-distancing laws, according to The New York Times.

For me, her death was personal.

Because I could have been Sarah.

Any of us women could have been Sarah.

Every time I walk across the FSU campus alone, even when it is light out, I’m constantly looking over my shoulder and tightening my grip on my key that I keep firmly grasped in my hand in case I need to use it to protect myself.

When I walk from the McCarthy Center to Corinne Towers Hall at night, I am constantly wondering, “Am I going to make it back safe?”

The 900 feet from the McCarthy Center to Towers can feel like miles when you are constantly wondering if you’ll make it to your bed at night.

Women have been conditioned to constantly fear for their lives, and rightfully so. We grow up being told to wear flats as it is easier to run from an attacker in flat shoes. Send our location to a friend so they can see where we are at all times. Carry a weapon whether that be our keys, pepper spray, bear mace, or a gun.

For as long as I can remember, I have been scared and I have reason to be.

Since Sarah’s disappearance and death, women have used social media to share stories of harassment and assault by men and a study was published that 97% of women ages 18 to 24 in England have experienced sexual harassment, according to The Guardian.

When seeing these stories all over my Instagram feed, Twitter feed, and TikTok For You page, I no longer felt so alone with my own experiences of sexual harassment and assault. But while I no longer feel alone, I have never been so angry.

I am sick of women being told that we need to restrict our freedom in order to survive.

I should get to enjoy an early morning stroll by myself without the fear of being assaulted.

No 15-year-old should have to say to themselves, “I should start carrying pepper spray with me at all times.”

When this statistic began to be posted all over social media, I saw, “Not all men.”

We know it isn’t all men.

But it is all women who fear for their lives every single day.

If I have a daughter, I dread the day that I will have to sit her down and hand her, her own pink canister of pepper spray and warn her of the dangers of walking down the street when the sun sets and lampposts twinkle in the darkness lighting the way.

National Sexual Assault Hotline – 1-800-656-4673

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