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Why has Sabina Nessa’s murder not dominated the news? Take a wild guess

It would be naive to ignore the repeated pattern of discrimination in the way media and police treat victims of colour

Hira Ali
Wednesday 22 September 2021 15:51 BST
A man has been arrested in connection with Sabina Nessa’s death
A man has been arrested in connection with Sabina Nessa’s death (Metropolitan Police)

In the past few days we have woken up to devastating news every morning – the senseless murders of bright young women gone too soon; dreams and aspirations abruptly brought to a tragic end.

Gabrielle Petito’s remains were discovered in Wyoming; the gut-wrenching Killmarsh murders; and then Sabina Nessa. The 28-year-old primary school teacher is believed to have been murdered as she walked home on Saturday afternoon, her body found near a community centre in south east London. Her case, of course, bears a painful resemblance to Sarah Everard’s murder six months ago.

While all three stories make for grim reading and are indicative of a wider epidemic of violence against women of every colour, race and ethnicity, it’s hard to ignore the explicit bias in the media reporting of each case.

I learned about Sabina Nessa’s murder about the same time I heard about the discovery of Gabrielle Petito’s remains. But when I tuned into the news this morning to find out the latest on both cases, there was no mention of Sabina whatsoever. This may be because the story is still developing and the case is open, but I believe it has not dominated the news yet because of how the media treats victims of colour differently.

Twitter already has the #SabinaNessa hashtag trending with strong calls to pay her story “the same attention”. One person tweeted: “When we say that Black and Brown women do not get the same outrage and ‘vigil treatment’ some say we are playing the race card.”

This blatant inequity is not mere perception, however. After Sarah Everard’s murder, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that adults of Black and mixed ethnicity were more likely to experience sexual assault, yet police discrimination has left minority victims out in the cold. This is further reflected in the way such stories are reported.

Sistah Space research found that 86 per cent of women of African and/or Caribbean heritage in the UK have either been a victim of domestic abuse or have been assaulted, yet only 57 per cent of victims reported the abuse to police.

As someone who regularly speaks and writes about gender violence, I do not support “whataboutism” and competing narratives. All atrocities need to be strongly called out with exclusive attention. After Sarah Everard’s murder, I and countless other women from my community and faith expressed solidarity and support, as we rightly should have. In fact, I quoted the case 13 times in my recently published book on male allyship and several articles I wrote soon after.

However, it would be naive to ignore the repeated pattern of discrimination in the way media and police treat victims of colour. The disproportionate coverage and attention is in equal parts appalling and disheartening. Like Sabina Nessa, I am an Asian woman of colour. It’s disappointing to see how much it takes to bring cases like her’s into the limelight. This glaring point of differentiation only underlines how gender violence does not discriminate – but we do.

Her Allies: A Practical Toolkit to Help Men Lead Through Advocacy by Hira Ali is out now

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