By Khadijah Islam
“Text me when you’re home safe”
A sentence I dread to hear before I make my way home but an act that I’m relieved to do when I finally make it there. For women, the mere act of walking home alone has become a danger that we, as a collective, understand how terrifying it feels to set foot in the dark without company. It’s been over a year since the whole #NotAllMen shambles was happening on Twitter along with the death of Sarah Everard who became a chilling example and just a tip of the iceberg to everything we fight for as women. Safety. Life. Freedom.
The Office of National Statistics found that in 2022, 82% of women reported feeling unsafe in the dark compared to men who were at 42%, and that more women (27%) than men (16%) reported they had experienced at least one form of harassment in the previous 12 months. I remember reading a tweet a while ago which asked, “If crime didn’t exist for a day, what would you do?” and most women responded with one thing that you wouldn’t expect an individual with that much power to do. Walk in the dark.
Over the last couple of decades, our behaviour as women has been encouraged to change. We avoid certain routes because anyone could appear out of nowhere. We avoid smiles and small talk in case it becomes an encouragement of unwanted attention, and we alter our outfits because heaven forbid, we wear something that will attract strange men.
It’s like the word ‘freedom’ itself is foreign to us and doesn’t exist in any of our dictionaries, because it is only a word defined and written for men. But my question is, does the changes we make really make a difference if the perspective of men doesn’t change? How do we see a difference if men don’t cooperate? Maybe the change was never supposed to be your route, smile or your outfit, but the mentality of men.
I asked a few women if they felt safe in the streets of the UK and what changes they think would improve women’s safety.
“I think more street lights everywhere would make me feel safer. But I also can see that streetlights attract people to loiter, so I’m not sure how effective it would be.
I don’t feel safe on my own at night, but unless there’s a way to physically force people to stop harassing women, I don’t see how we will ever feel safe. Unfortunately, it seems there will always be someone willing to harass a woman who is walking alone.”
Maddie Bice, 24, PR Executive
“I have been out at night four times in the last fortnight and experienced sexual harassment including violence on 3/4 of these days. My male friends and family insist on accompanying me everywhere at night as they are worried about my safety due to the cases such as Sabina Nessa's. My female friends ensure that we get a taxi home after a night out, even for short journeys. It's sad that unknown men have this much control over our lives.
Raising the next generation of young men to have respect for all women would make a big difference, in my opinion. “
Melanie Rowley, 22, Student
“I used to feel safe in my area but as I grew up, I realised that I don’t feel safe to walk alone on the streets at night. I feel like I need to be on the phone with someone just in case something bad happens. I’d like to see more streetlights and more ways to actively work on bettering women’s safety in the local area – whether that’s actually reducing crime rate or just opening up the conversation more for women to voice their worries.”
Rutaba Hussain, 23, Dental Student.