Women feeling unsafe on their own or late at night is not a new concept. It’s been a problem for thousands of years. As an inferior to man, our place is at home, cooking and cleaning, playing with the children or possibly dying in childbirth – what right do we have to be educated, be a boss babe or alas feel safe on our own?
Insert eye roll here!
There always seems to be underlying rules which we are expected to follow. Even I’m told to lock the door (to my own home) when friends or family leave. Don’t get a lift from a stranger and don’t walk alone, especially at night. Even when in a taxi, you are asked to let your friends know that you’re home safe and sound.
What happened to girl power?
Data shows that 32% of women in the UK feel unsafe or very unsafe when walking alone in their local area at night. Meanwhile, only 13% of men expressed the same concern. Even worse, 64% of women in the UK of all ages and 85% aged 18-24 have experienced sexual harassment in public spaces.
In the wake of yet another tragic death, we all have our opinions about educating the male species on how to respect and not to harass or tamper with girls. It’s unfortunate that even though we can push for reforms, we are unlikely to make a significant change in our lifetime. However, I hope this is not the case.
Do we have the freedom to reclaim the streets?
Women, and some men, have been speaking up on the issue for years. All we can do is keep fighting to change attitudes. We shouldn’t have to, but in the meantime, here are some ways to feel safe and empowered when walking on your own.
1. Plan your route
Even if you know the area, before you set off, think about the route ahead. Are there any unlit areas, pubs or restaurants along the way? There may be areas you want to avoid. It is not “being paranoid” on a short journey to let someone know your plans. If you fall and hurt yourself or run into trouble, someone will know where you are if you don’t arrive at your destination on time.
2. Walk with purpose
Would-be attackers are looking for easy targets. Your sex may already be against you, but strolling with your head down or looking distractedly at your phone isn’t going to help. Hold your head high and straighten your back. Keep to the well-lit areas, even if it will add a couple of minutes to your journey.
3. Carry something in your hand
Apparently, would-be criminals are more sensitive to those who are carrying something whilst you walk, such as an umbrella – but not your handbag. You may want to swing it around in an intimidating way.
If you are walking to your car, you should have your keys in your hand. So you won’t be rummaging around in your bag or digging through your pockets to find them. You can get into your car straight away.
4. Trust your gut
Take note of your instincts. You may be in a situation where you don’t have a choice not to walk alone. If you feel uncomfortable at any point, look for an open shop, café or police station. Go in and use the phone, call a friend or just regroup your thoughts.
5. Carry your phone with you
Don’t make social calls or listen to music as you walk home. But you want your phone in your hand, pocket, or somewhere you can quickly get to it. There are safety apps where you can discreetly alert authorities if you feel threatened or see something suspicious.
Safer Places is an app. It shows all the safe places in your area. There is a panic button called ‘get me to my nearest safe place now’. It will direct you to the nearest place within a 15-minute walk. If there isn’t one near, it will automatically offer to call 101 to get help over the phone.
You could also call Strut Safe. Set up by students in Edinburgh, you can contact the number if you feel uncomfortable on your walk home, even if you’re elsewhere in the UK. They will stay on the line until you get to your destination. Save the number on your phone: 0333 335 0026.
Look after yourself
Men don’t always understand because chances are they haven’t experienced it themselves. What is it really like to face unwanted sexual advances, threats of violence simply for being a woman? It is something that happens daily. I’m not naïve enough to believe it will be eradicated tomorrow. It is essential to support change and make a stand for harmful attitudes towards women. Call out poor behaviour when you see it, but in the meantime, take some precautions.