Last night at around 4am, I walked home from a night out with my friend. Two females walking home together on a lit road. We’ve walked that route a hundred times and as I was sober, not alone and there were lots of people around, I felt it was okay to walk home with my friend. After all, it wasn’t that far.
We were approached by a drunk man who asked us which way we were walking home. He told us he was walking in a particular direction which was different to ours. We crossed the road to be safe and also avoid awkwardness and continued walking.
Mid conversation with my friend, I look around and see the same man crossing over from the path he should of taken home to the path we were taking and felt instantly alert and anxious. I didn’t say anything to my friend until I was sure that he could be following us.
We crossed over again… and then again and at that point, it was clear that this man was following us.
Now, whether he had any intentions, good or bad, I felt fear. We both did.
The man caught up with us and we let him pass, pretending we were looking for something in our bags. Once he passed, we watched him continue walking and looking back for us. We hid in a doorway of a pub until he was far enough away but still in sight.
We were left feeling anxious, intimidated and frustrated.
As a feminist, I want equality and I truly believe that the world is becoming more equal. Yet for some reason, it doesn’t feel equal in society.
Girls are installed with fear. Fear of being attacked, raped, murdered, assaulted. Just for being a girl on her own in public.
We continued to walk home. This time, we were overly alert. Any person, doorway, road… we looked at over cautiously and made sure it was safe.
We entered conversation about how frustrating the whole situation was. Don’t get me wrong, men do get attacked. It’s not okay for anyone to be attacked whether they are male or female. Yet as a female who has male friends, it seems that it’s the girls who fear more than males do. We continued talking about past experiences and what we do to make sure we aren’t attacked every time we walk home.
As a child, I was taught to scream fire instead of rape because otherwise, I might not be helped. I was taught how to defend myself against a man if I was being attacked. I was taught to stay quiet if I was to be raped in case it angered the man and it escalated into a life threatening situation. I was taught to scratch any man that attacks me and pull their hair to make sure that if anything happened to me, I’d have DNA evidence of my attacker. I was taught to walk home with my keys in between my knuckles to use as a weapon in case of an emergency.
I’m sure men get nervous walking home too but they have no idea of the fear installed in girls for just being a single girl on her own in public.
The reality of is that men are stronger than women. If it was a female following us last night, I wouldn’t have felt that fear. I’d of known that I could defend myself if I needed to but as discussed with my friend, it seemed that if we were attacked, we were still not sure we could successful take on this man and get away.
One in five women in England and Wales has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16 (ONS Crime Survey for England and Wales, January 2013) and women are nearly five times as likely to have experienced sexual assault as men (ONS Crime Survey for England and Wales, year ending March 2016).
I guess this is why we are fearful. It’s just sad that a difference defined as gender can cause such a difference in levels of fear.
As a female, this is the equality I want. To be taught not to fear a man. To be able to walk home and not feel objectified or vulnerable. To not constantly think of an escape route or to decide which object in my bag could be my weapon. To raise daughters and grandaughters to learn self-defense for general safety and not to protect themselves from males.
I honestly believe this is why females are more feisty and defensive to any man that approaches them. We may appear stuck up or rude but we are already on the defence, preparing ourselves for the feeling of vulnerability we all know to well. Already subconsciously defending ourselves.
I hope this changes.