After Sarah Everard's tragic murder, the Church must speak and act

(Photo: Unsplash/Tristan Gassert)

Sarah Everard's story has highlighted the danger women fear when walking the streets at night. The reality is that an abduction like this is incredibly rare. Met Commissioner Cressida Dick has rightfully reassured us that we are incredibly unlikely to be taken and murdered like this. But, women are still afraid, and for good reason.

Two reports this week highlight why. The first revealed that 97% of girls aged 16-24 have been sexually harassed - whether that's being leered at, followed home, groped or coerced into a sexual act. Another from the UN told us that a quarter of all women will be abused by a boyfriend or husband.

The truth is, it's not the big, horrifying stories that are the problem. It's the small stories - the ones we don't hear about that are happening all the time, on our streets and even in our homes.

Women live with the potential of being subjected to violence every single day. It's these smaller, repeated, more than likely, instances of violence that create the fear that one day it will be more. One day it won't be survivable.

The truth is, those small violences are too much. They're frightening in themselves. It's not OK that almost every young woman you know has been harassed and is afraid to walk the street or be left alone at a party or stuck in a lift with a bunch of men. It's not OK that women have to restrict their behaviour or walk the longer route home to feel and be safe. Something needs to change.

There's a story in the Bible that doesn't often get talked about - a horrible story of hideous violence against a woman whose name we never get to know. She is let down by her husband, abused by him and then gang-raped and killed. Judges 19:30 tells us that when the men of Israel came to hear about it, they gathered and said this: "Has such a thing ever happened in Israel? Just Imagine! We must speak up and do something."

The truth is that such a thing had probably been happening for a long time - but this story caught their attention, a little like how the story of George Floyd caught our attention last year, and Sarah Everard's story has caught our attention now.

But our response should be the same - we need to speak up and do something, and as God's people commit to making the world a safer place for women.

Righteous indignation will only carry us so far. Slowly those of us who never knew Sarah will forget and ease back into life as we knew it, but I believe that God calls us to more. I long to see the Church take its place in standing against violence against women.

We all believe that people shouldn't hurt women, but we need to challenge the beliefs that sit at the roots of those behaviours, beliefs that women's lives are of less value. We need to teach our sons to value, respect and honour women and we need righteous men to lead the way in demonstrating what that looks like.

First Man Standing

If violence against women is to end, we need men to help challenge the attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate it – in themselves, and in other men.

That's why we, as Restored, launched the First Man Standing campaign. We have over 1,500 members to date, committed to standing up and speaking out about violence against women – be it in their families, churches or workplaces. We need more men to stand up and make a difference wherever they are.

If you're interested in exploring what you can do to make a difference, our First Man Standing Bible studies are a great place to start.

Bekah Legg is CEO of Restored, a Christian charity supporting survivors of violence against women and empowering the Church to play its part in stamping it out for good.