There was once a girl called Sabina Nessa. Beautiful and bright and talented and kind. Then one day, she was gone. Too young, too soon, and against her will, her life was taken. I want to not despair, but why don't more people know this story?
The wrong place at the wrong time
18 years ago, I was attacked on my way home from a friends house. I was 21. Lucky that my attacker never got as far as he'd planned, because someone heard me whimpering, someone who saved my life by chance; who was in the right place, at the right time, as much as I was in the wrong place, at the wrong time. I remember this man, the one who saw me lying on the ground, who saw my attacker's hand over my mouth and whose presence made him run, so clearly. He asked me if I was ok, and stood back as I shakily screamed at him not to touch me. He offered to walk me home, and when I shook my head, said he would walk behind me, just so he could make sure I was safe. I remember his figure, stood at the end of my street, as he watched me opening the door to my block of flats. Still stood there, when I finally got to the relief of my own kitchen. I don't remember my attacker. Maybe I choose not to.
I don't remember my attacker. Maybe I choose not to.
I remember my flatmates making tea and putting me to bed. I remember one of them phoning the office to a job I never went back to, to explain why I wouldn't be coming in that day. I'm crying typing this. Remembering the pain and trauma and fear that this vulnerability instills in you. The sense that you are never safe. That you will never be safe. The story of Sabina Nessa, brought this pain back to the surface, with a whole new scar.
An extreme and violent ending to a beautiful but short life.
Sabina Nessa had finished work, and gone home to get changed. It was early evening, and she was going to meet friends; the place she was going, only 5 minutes from where she lived. She took the route she always took. It was early evening but still busy enough in the park she walked through to feel that she was safe. And yet, she wasn't safe. Sabina Nessa didn't make it to meet her friends. Someone decided she couldn't. Someone took control of her life, just like someone did to Sarah Everard and Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, and others have to countless women before and after. Sabina Nessa was murdered. An extreme and violent ending to a beautiful but short life.
Haven't you heard?
Maybe you haven't heard of Sabina Nessa. Maybe you don't know this story nestled so carefully at the bottom of your news feed. Maybe your timeline is too full of Wayne Couzens, the policeman who used his warrant card to detain, kidnap and murder Sarah Everard. Of pictures of Sarah's sweet smiling face, looking like Sabina, so heartbreakingly young and full of hope. But maybe that's the problem. That one young pretty face is more appealing than another. More pliable for reasons of public outrage. The white one. The white face, with the white killer. Because who could believe that a policeman, a white policeman, could be capable of such cruelty? Let me tell you who. Every non-white person I know would believe it. Would know it. Would look at the policeman who sent depraved images of the murdered black sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman to his colleagues on a WhatsApp chat, as if it were nothing more than light entertainment, and know it.
Where is the public outcry for Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, who the police let down so catastrophically too?
Where is the outrage?
Where is the public outcry for Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, who the police let down so catastrophically too? Who were disinterested in their disappearance, who robbed them of their dignity in death. Where is the coverage of Sabina Nessa, another young woman murdered brutally by a man unknown to her, mere months after we vowed to reclaim our streets? Why do they not deserve the same attention? Why do their deaths not command it?
We all know why. We know. Just as we know that the mainstream media, like the police, has it's own agenda. That non-white stories with non-white people, are worth less clicks. Less outrage. We know why. We know.
Perhaps we should consider how the media would respond to a blond, blue eyed primary school teacher being murdered violently in the wake of Sarah's death
A time to kill
At times like these, I think of the ending of the John Grisham bestseller, A Time To Kill. When a black father kills the white man who raped his young daughter and is put on trial for his murder. The jury ready to convict him, is convinced by a lone female juror, to consider that a white ten year old girl with blond hair and blue-eyes had been raped and brutalised by two black men. It is only in swapping the image of the young black girl, for the young white one, that this jury could acquit the father. Could understand his pain and outrage. I remember reading this book at its publication, and understanding innately why this was necessary. Why one young girl was perceived as worth more than another. Why I was perceived as worth less than. Perhaps we should consider how the media would respond to a blond, blue eyed primary school teacher being murdered violently in the wake of Sarah's death, in a busy park, in the early evening, only minutes from her house. Or how they would report on two blond, blue eyed sisters celebrating their birthday in a park, only to end their party murdered by a stranger, images of their bodies taken by the police who should have protected them, distributed for personal amusement. We know how the media would report on these stories. We know why.
I know why this wasn't front page news
Ever since I read the news of Sabina Nessa's murder on page 25 of the Evening Standard, an uncomfortable feeling has taken root in my chest. A feeling I've probably had, for as long as I can remember. That ebbs and flows, expands and inverts, a feeling of vulnerability and fear, one of disappointment and acceptance. One of knowing. Sabina Nessa like Sarah Everard and Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman - was a woman. A vulnerability in and of itself. They were all talented and kind and exceptional. They were all worth the same. They were all worth a life. The media may try to erase some of them, say some of them count more than others. But a life is a life is a life. And this, we know too.
Bibba Henry 1974 - 2020
Nicole Smallman 1993 - 2020
Sabina Nessa. 1993 - 2021.
Sarah Everard 1987 - 2021