Will we ever feel safe as women?
Updated: Oct 20, 2021
This morning I purchased a high-volume rape alarm and a small canister of criminal identifier self-defense spray. A nice Amazon purchase to make on a sunny Monday morning.
Weirdly, I hadn't felt the need to own either of these strange items until now, aged 38. Even having lived alone in London for ten years, I just never really felt a need to. Maybe somehow I felt invincible and adopted that "it will never actually happen to me" mindset.
However, with the recent and horrific details about Sarah Everard's murder been revealed, as well as news of Sabina Nessa's male murderer being charged, I, along with many of you I expect, have been feeling very uneasy.
I read a stat over the weekend in which official figures show that 93% of all UK murders are committed by men. And, of the remaining 7%, a total of 4% of those female murderers were acting in self-defense. These are stats that certainly make you feel very vulnerable as a woman.
93% of all UK murders are committed by men
It made me look back and reflect on all the times that indeed I have felt threatened - both justifiably or otherwise. And, then think how much safer I might've felt during those times had I had the alarm and the spray.
The times I rang my poor, poor mother hundreds of miles away so I could hear a familiar voice as I walked home alone with a group of unknown men nearby. The hundreds of times I would hold my house key right in between my knuckles as I walked up the thin stairway to my apartment in London, just in case a man was lurking around the corner to catch me off guard. And, the times I would talk loudly to my imaginary boyfriend as I power-walked through an empty carpark before immediately locking myself in the car as soon as I was in.
We all have techniques that we adopt when our fight or flight mode kicks in as we feel our safety is threatened. We laugh it off and joke about it with our friends later - but the truth is, it's just not funny.
We laugh it off and joke about it with our friends later - but the truth is, it's just not funny.
I also re-read Emma Burke's article this weekend, which was written back in March when Sarah Everard's case was first broadcast. The title of her article was 'It is men, not women, who are responsible for male violence.' It made me recount the time when my friends and I spent the night in a French police station, having been attacked on a train earlier that evening. We were on the way home from a friend's Halloween party and were surrounded by a group of males who pushed us around and stripped us down to our underwear. Luckily other passengers alerted the driver and there was a police van waiting at the next station for us. Who knows what might've happened if they weren't. We were in our early twenties at the time and I remember the police officers basically making out like we brought it on ourselves by being provocatively dressed. We actually even ended up believing this ourselves in our stupid youth - like just because we wanted to dress up to show off our figures, it gave men the right to attack us and touch us up. You know, I think subconsciously, since then it's made me always want to cover myself up to try and stay out of trouble's way. My husband regularly asks me why I don't wear tighter dresses or show off my body a bit more - and I think that night was a big part of the reason.
As a mum of two boys, I feel a huge responsibility to educate them against male chauvinistic attitudes and how certain actions are totally not acceptable. I feel like we don't get enough help with this topic of education in schools, and it's an area that I feel we need the most help with.
If we are to ever feel safe as women, I believe it's the education in schools and at home with young boys where the change needs to start. Instead of teaching girls how to protect themselves and carry rape alarms, we need to be teaching the boys that behaviour that threatens women is NEVER okay.
That they can't copy the groups of guys they see on TV who wolf-whistle at girls and make them feel uncomfortable. That just because they are physically bigger and stronger than girls, that they never use this as an advantage to take control of a situation. And, also teaching them ways to control and channel their anger, jealousy, and other negative emotions without it resorting to threatening or violence.
It's not easy. It will feel uncomfortable to talk about. And, there will never be a right time to bring it up. But, in the words of Dua Lipa who nailed it with her Boys will be boys single "No, the kids ain't alright".
In the words of Dua Lipa who nailed it with her Boys will be Boys single "No, the kids ain't alright".
I'm really hoping that while we are all in this current frame of mind, we use it to ensure that our daughters and granddaughters won't ever have to walk around with their keys in between their knuckles on their walk home.