The Fear Of Walking Alone
The 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard vanished while she was walking home in south London at about 9 pm on 3 March, and investigators searching for her have found human remains. Hundreds of women expressed their sadness over the news and shared their experiences of feeling a sense of fear when walking home alone.
The Tory MP Claire Coutinho said: “Walking late at night recently, I remember thinking I’d better look over my left shoulder as much as I’m looking over my right so I don’t strain my neck. And always with keys out.”
The Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones wrote: “We are told: ‘Don’t get too drunk you will be too vulnerable.’ ‘Put your keys between your fingers when walking alone.’ When will we start telling boys & men not to attack women?”
The Labour MP for Coventry North West, Taiwo Owatemi, said women were taught that it was not safe to walk alone “before we have even sat our GCSEs”. She added: “Every woman and girl deserves to live without fear of violence.”
The singer Nadine Shah said she had been followed home “too many times to count”.
“Once I had to hide in a bush for over an hour until two men gave up looking for me. I could hear them plotting explicitly what they were going to do to me and laughing. The solution starts with respecting women,” she wrote.
We have spent years being taught what we, as women, should do to keep ourselves safe. As 12-year-olds at an all-girls secondary school, we were given a specific lesson in how to avoid the attack. We were taught to carry pepper spray where ever we go, to sit near the bus driver, to choose brightly lit streets. We were each given a rape alarm.
These messages of personal safety are passed from woman to woman. They are well-intended and come from a place of care and love, but how come it is still so widely accepted in society that it is a woman’s responsibility to prevent an attack?
Look around and see the work being done to educate men against chauvinistic attitudes or aggressions? I’m sure the answer will be nill or minimalist.
What happened with Sarah Everard is each women’s worst nightmare. It’s time that as a society we address the attitudes, behaviour and violence that lie at the root of it.
It should not be luck that we make it home from a walk.