Last week, I had a long discussion with my wife about whether our eldest daughter should walk home from school.

My daughter, who is almost fourteen, normally cycles to school, but with the strong winds, we felt it safer not to. But walking home came with its different concerns about safety.

This was a discussion in the aftermath of the appalling murder of Sarah Everard, abducted in Clapham on March 3, and whose body was found in Kent a week later.

Everard’s killing is one of those murders that has really resonated, leading to countless “there but for the Grace” responses and a shocking outpouring of memories and experiences from women across the country.

The initial response from the Metropolitan Police was that such cases are “incredibly rare”. But the disturbing truth is that violence towards women is anything but rare, remaining a deeply troubling issue that in many ways is getting worse rather than better.

The numbers regarding rape convictions are particularly grim here. Over the last three years, the number of rapes reported in England and Wales have risen from 41,616 to 55,130. Out of those 55,130 reported cases, there were only 2,102 prosecutions and just 1,439 convictions – a 50 per cent drop since 2017.

Given such low conviction rates – a one in seventy chance of prosecution – it’s understandable why many women don’t decide to come forward.

Not only are the chances of success so slim, but there is also the potential public grilling for the victim to factor in as well: as the women involved in the cases of footballer Ched Evans and cricketer Alex Hepburn discovered.

One wonders at the response of this government, the supposed party of law and order, in dealing with this. It says something about present priorities that the current sentence for rape is five years, but attacking a statue could soon get you ten years in prison.

One of the theories about the government’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic has been the lack of women in cabinet and I suspect that may be the case here too: currently just five members of the cabinet (23 per cent) are female.

As poor as the government record is on this, it should also be said that this is also an issue that stretches back much further than just one administration: I remember Reclaim the Streets marches when I was at university thirty years ago, for example.

So it’s a societal as well as a government challenge – somehow instilling real change in attitudes and behaviour.

One hopes that the powerful response to Sarah Everard’s murder is the start of that – and that my daughter doesn’t find herself having the same conversations about her own children in thirty years’ time.

Editor's note on Mr Ched Evans:

In the edition of the March 18, a column by Tom Bromley headlined the murder of Sarah Everard and included references to women’s experiences when reporting allegations of rape.

It cited the case of former cricketer Alex Hepburn and also the case of professional footballer Ched Evans.

We have been asked to  remind readers that Mr Evans was acquitted of rape by the Court of Appeal, whereas Mr Hepburn was convicted and imprisoned for five years. 

We are happy to emphasise the distinction.