‘Let me know when you get home,’ is something that every woman has asked their friends to do after an evening out at least a hundred times. If we don’t receive that text from our friend, we will worry. Did my friend get home okay? Did something happen? If she walked home, did a man attack her? If she was in a cab, did the driver do something terrible to her? So many times, I hear stories of women who have had horrific experiences, but the disappearance and murder of Sarah Everard has hit differently. I’ve been really upset to be honest and I rarely cry at the news. Yesterday I did. This could have been anyone. Me, one of my friends, work colleagues or relatives. It has started a global conversation, especially on social media where the hashtag #notallmenbutallwomen has been trending for the last 48 hours. It has bought up so many memories of experiences of situations we have encountered every time we have been outdoors, at whatever time of the day.
I want to say, before I go any further, that a woman knows that not every man is the same. We know. We’re not saying you are, but we cannot ever distinguish between the good and the bad and that’s a sad fact.
Fear. It is something not growing up in London, that I haven’t really have experienced. Growing up in the Midlands, I didn’t really have much concept of walking home late at night alone. In Nottingham, taxi’s home from town after a night out are fairly cheap, so the thought of having to get a bus home or walking was never an option or even a thought. I thought more about the safety of the cab driver and the company I was using. How long will I have to wait at the taxi rank at 2am after a night at Oceana? This was pre-uber. Also, my overprotective parents would rather pick me up than let me take public transport alone after a certain time.
This changed when I moved to London. Taking a tube home and then walking home from the station is the norm. But I haven’t always been comfortable walking home late, so for the sake of about £6, I’ll get a cab from the station. Not because I am lazy, but because I don’t feel safe. If you are a man reading this, think about the times when you have told your female friend to walk home, its fine for you to walk, but they got a cab. They got a cab because they are scared. No other reason.
I’ve been in situations where I could have possibly been in danger.
Once when I was at university. A couple of female friends and I were on a bus and a man just had his bits out on the top deck and was pleasuring himself. He could have done anything to one of us. We exited the bus immediately.
Another time, my best friend and I were in the hot tub which was in my friends apartment complex in San Francisco. The other man in the hot tub was pleasuring himself. This was in the middle of the day, in broad daylight. Another time when we could have been in danger. We were able to exit the situation quite quickly, but it was still scary.
There was a time when I was at work and a man had commented on the size of my chest. I wasn’t comfortable being in a room alone with him from that day onwards.
I have been on dates and when I have refused to go home with a guy, he’s gotten annoyed. My friends have also often felt intimidated by guys on dates.
I remember walking home late at night, a man was walking towards me from far away. Fear filled me. It turned out that it was a work colleague, I was still scared. I shouldn’t have been.
Just last year, two friends and I were in a cab on the way home from dinner. The Uber driver was so erratic and scary that instead of the original three stops, we had to cut the journey short.
I’m going to list some situations where women feel they have to be more careful than men:
- Unfortunately, many women will have to make decisions based on how we will get home or drive instead of enjoying a few drinks.
- Taking a coat that will cover them up if their outfit is even a little bit revealing
- They have to be careful of what they wear in front of male relatives, especially elder ones
- They will continue to be afraid of sitting in a tube carriage at night where it is just her and one man. Afraid that in between stations, something might happen
- We will ensure that there is someone they can share the cost of a cab home with from Central London to home because the prices of cabs are extortionate
- They will leave an event early because we don’t want to have to walk to or arrive at a deserted a station late at night. I remember a woman being attacked near Harrow on the Hill station and when I lived there for a while, I was always scared to arrive there late, or use the toilet there at night, scared of what might happen
- We still have to carry footwear suitable for walking or maybe even running
- A fully charged phone in case we need to call someone on the way home and our friends will still worry when they don’t get a text from us ensuring we’re home safe
- Pretend to be on the phone or stay on the phone to someone while walking home
- Just talk to your female friends and understand what frightens them
A man can wear what he wants, drink as much as he wants and still walk home late at night, safely. The sad thing is women cannot. And this isn’t going to change anytime soon. We will always have to be more alert than our male counterparts
Of course, we know that not every man is the same, but we don’t know which man could do something. If you’re concerned about a womans safety, then clearly there’s a problem. Don’t invalidate our feelings by saying ‘not all men are the same,’ if you worry about the safety of a female in your life, then there’s a problem in society and that can only be fixed by education.
The streets can be safer on the streets and a man can do some small things to help:
- Make sure your female friends get home safe by walking them home or making sure their cab/uber driver is genuine
- Call out misogynistic behaviour from your friends, tell them its not okay to make sexist jokes or comment on a woman’s lady parts
- Don’t comment on a woman’s chest or ask for their bra size on dating sites
- Educate your sons that they shouldn’t treat women as pretty things to just look at
- At night, if you see a woman walking alone, quietly keep an eye on her and make sure she is okay. Intervene if you see her in trouble
- Also, at night, keep yourself in sight of the woman and keep your distance so that she knows you’re not a threat
- Don’t walk too close to a woman and possibly call someone so the woman knows you’re not a risk
- If you’re on a bike and are suddenly going to be passing her, call out to a woman that you’re not a risk
Women, we sadly are going to have to continue to be on alert when we’re alone in certain situations. It is a sad but true fact. One man that is a threat on the streets, is one man too many.
Men, you have a voice, use it. It could be your mum, sister, partner or friend that this could happen to.
Thoughts and prayers going out to Sarah Everards family and friends.
Priya Mulji x