Are we ever really safe?: The tragic death of Sabina Nessa

The article below contains information about sexual assault and violence. If you or someone you know may be dealing with anything of this nature, Hope College has an anonymous reporting form you may access here:

Sabina Nessa, a 28-year-old elementary school teacher in London, was murdered on September 22. Nessa was walking from her house to meet a friend and walked through a park at around 8:30 p.m. when she was attacked. Police added that her trip was only supposed to take about five minutes and that the park she was at was busy at that time of evening. Her attacker appeared in court on September 30 on charges of murder. Over 500 people attended a vigil in her honor in London this week, and many more continued to call for changes to be made to better protect women. Other vigils were held across the country. At the vigil for Nessa, her sister spoke, saying, “I just want to say thank you to everyone who came today to show support for my sister. We have lost an amazing, caring, beautiful sister, who left this world far too early,” according to the BBC.

Nessa’s attack was just days before the killer of Sarah Everard was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Last March, Everard’s death sparked international outrage after she was kidnapped and killed in London by a former police officer. Everard was deceived by the former officer, who falsely accused her of violating COVID-19 mandates and used his police badge in order to trick her into getting in his car. In response, Everard’s family added, “Sarah lost her life needlessly and cruelly and all the years of life she had yet to enjoy were stolen from her. Wayne Couzens held a position of trust as a police officer and we are outraged and sickened that he abused this trust in order to lure Sarah to her death. The world is a safer place with him imprisoned,” according to the BBC.

Nessa’s tragic death also comes after a UK report on the epidemic of violence against women and girls. One woman is killed by a man approximately every three days in the UK, and the majority of the time it is by a partner or former partner, according to the UK government report. Additionally, the report highlighted other alarming statistics, such as that 50% of women said they felt unsafe in public spaces and that 66% of women have experienced harassment in the last year alone. 

In response, police have handed out alarms to local women and have made other safety suggestions such as adding more streetlights. However many have criticized the moves as doing too little to address the root causes of the problem. London mayor Sadiq Khan added that misogyny must be treated as a hate crime. 

In the wake of high-profile cases such as Gabby Petito, Everard and Nessa, advocates are hoping that change finally comes, especially for women and girls of color, whose cases typically receive less media attention than the cases of privileged white women and girls. The organization Women’s Aid, a UK non-profit seeking to end domestic violence, said in a statement on Twitter that, “ALL women deserve an equal level of support and attention. It is not good enough that victims from Black and marginalised communities do not receive the same level of profile.”

Although these tragic events may seem far away for some, violence against women affects Hope College students and community members. The Title IX office at Hope has extensive resources available to students and staff, including ways to support victims of such violence and to help those in unhealthy relationships. Other resources include Campus Safety’s safety escort service, which is available 24/7 and is free to all students, and the blue light stations around campus.

Claire Dwyer ('24) is a current Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Anchor. Joining as a News Writer fall of a freshman year, she has enjoyed the opportunity to connect with the campus community through journalism!

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