In the wake of the horrific details of Sarah’s Everard case, the public became aware that serving PC Wayne Couzens used his authority as a member of the police force and the sexist culture among men which thrives on impunity to abduct, rape and murder a young woman who was walking home at night.
During Couzens’ trial, the court was shown evidence that Ms Everard was stopped by Couzens, who claimed she was infringing on Covid restrictions, and showed her his badge. Sarah was then handcuffed and got into a police car with Couzens.
Fiona Hamilton, Crime and Security Editor for the Times, tweeted that “she was compliant because he used the guise of covid restrictions to ‘arrest’ her.”
Couzens used a false pretence, abusing the fact that Covid rules change all the time and even the disinformation about them, besides showing his badge to enforce the lie.
“She was detained by fraud,” said the prosecutor, Tom Little QC, in court. Couzens had the upper hand on all fronts - including the police’s neglect of when they let him go unpunished for several previous incidents.
According to many of the reports on the case, there were several signs that should have been taken seriously by the police and could have saved Everard’s life by preventing the escalation of Couzens’ behavior.
“Couzens engaged in other forms of abuse in the lead up to murdering Everard,” the group End Violence Against Women wrote in a statement after the sentencing.
One of these signs was Couzens’ accusations of previous indecent exposure.. “He had been reported for indecent exposure in 2015, then for twice repeating this offense days before the murder, remaining in his job,” wrote Catherine Bennet for the Guardian.
He was nicknamed “the rapist” by members of his unit in the police force - it has emerged that he had pursued a sexual involvement with a 14 years old girl when he was 23; he was caught driving in his car naked from the waist down; he sexually assaulted a female staff member at a McDonald’s prior to Sarah’s murder. And yet, he has remained a serving police officer.
He was also “attracted to brutal sexual pornography” and had a dating profile on Match.com stating he was “separated,” - but days later after abducting, raping and killing Sarah, Couzens took his wife and kids to a site close where he murdered Everard. Some reports said that his children played just yards away from the lake where he disposed of her body.
And then, there’s the “badge.” Or, rather, his “warrant card.” The fact that Couzens showed it to Sarah while not wearing a police uniform should be considered a great cause of concern.
Fiona Hamilton wrote in her piece that a witness saw Couzens and Sarah Everard in Clapham: “The immediate impression the passenger formed was that she was witnessing an undercover police officer arresting a woman.”
The card was used as a call to authority by Couzens. In fact, he was part of a unit working with other officers on “uniformed Covid patrols, enforcing coronavirus lockdown regulations.” Thus, he knew the rules and who to target. He also planned an attack several days before. Sarah was “compliant” with his claims because she “had been to a friend’s house for dinner at the height of the early 2021 lockdown.”
When these male “calls to authority” over women and “brotherhood” - men covering up for other men - are combined, it becomes even more concerning.
Apart from a new phase of the MeToo movement, in which many women with verified twitter accounts recently wrote about their harrowing experiences with the police, the public had also heard many reports on how the male police treat accusations of domestic violence or sexual/physical assaults committed by other male officers. Already in 2019, Alexandra Heal confirmed the existence of this problem for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in “Nowhere to turn: Women say domestic abuse by police officers goes unpunished.”
However, instead of taking into account all these signs of danger posed by predatory men to build up policies that will tackle male violence against women, the justice system and men in positions of power are still choosing to request women stay indoors at night, hold car keys, or wave down a bus if they are suspicious of a man pretending to be an undercover police officer. Instead of creating safe spaces for women, the men in charge seem to be demanding that women fence for themselves out there.
In her 2021 piece, Catherine Bennet also brings forward an interesting parallel about the call to authority from men pretending to be something they are not. Men use "badges" or status to be always considered the experts.
Bennet posited that justice secretary David Lammy seems to believe “Sometimes, it’s acceptable to discuss endemic male violence against women and girls and sometimes it’s not.”
Here, she is referring to Lammy’s comments uttered just days before Couzens’ verdict, in which he called women “who value women-only spaces – where they feel safe from male violence” “dinosaurs” who were “hoarding rights” - presumably from males who say they are women. After the verdict, the shadow justice secretary tweeted that violence against women and girls should be treated “as seriously as terrorism.”
“These single-sex spaces – from refuges to hospital wards and rest rooms – historically protected women by excluding men where women were particularly vulnerable,” wrote Bennet. “But there are now questions about their survival, partly because of their increasing, arbitrary replacement by gender-neutral spaces, partly because of possible changes to gender-recognition law.”
Bennet’s point also applies to male violence against women and girls. How can women distinguish between police officers on duty doing their job to protect and police officers using the system to access victims? How can women distinguish between males who say they are women? What about males who pose no risk to women and the ones who will say they are women to abuse? We now know that Couzens abducted Ms Everard by fraudulent means. This should be an alert to us all.
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