I can’t stop thinking about Sarah Everard.
On twitter it seems I am not the only one, as heart felt condolences fill our news feeds. I am so sorry if you are a loved one, or friend of Sarah. I can’t imagine the pain you are going through.
Women everywhere have been rocked by this and I am one of them. For years I have lived in London. The journey across town in the night has always been frightening, whether it was 9 at night or 2 in the morning. Buses and trains could have anyone on, you have always had to keep your wits about you. That is what we are taught as young girls. In a way I felt the same walking home from school in the dark in Bournemouth suburb - it could have been tea-time, but if it was dark, a little later and quieter, I would power walk or run the half a mile home. On my bike from friends in the evening I would cycle quicker than I ever knew I could. I could have put myself in danger throwing myself across roads, not double-checking for traffic, but I had this feeling ingrained in me, that someone was following me; I was in danger.
It isn’t an experience exclusive to London, but I have encountered moments of genuine fear in areas of London I have then moved away from. A man followed me around a shop once, in broad daylight, insisting I took his number while forcefully rubbing his leg. I ran out of the shop as he attempted to follow me home. On the same road, I was walking back from a Christmas party and a group of young adults walked into me and pushed me in the road with no explanation. I spent the rest of the time that I lived there getting the bus two stops home, and running to the front door with the key poised in my hand, ready to defend myself. I have taken the wrong bus to get away from strange people at the bus stop. Sometimes they mean no harm by the strange looks or comments, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Every woman has a handful of stories like this, wherever they have lived.
Women everywhere see themselves in this story. It could have been any one of us. She just wanted to go home. Perhaps normally we would dismiss this, as some people have, as a flagrant disregard of her own safety. Why was she walking so late at night, or her own and for so long? Why would she walk at night wearing head phones? Of course it wouldn’t be safe, we may say it was her own fault. My question is why shouldn’t she be able to do those things? Would we question her choices if she were a man? The fear is the normality for women everywhere but would men accept this normality? In addition to this, I needn’t remind you of the situation we are in and why this has made this story more poignant.
We have been living with restrictions on our freedoms for a year now but deep down we know the reality for women is that it has been much longer than that. We are told that by walking at night, or in the dark, is to put ourselves in danger. We should have a male chaperone, to ward off unwanted attention; they are physically stronger and are taken more seriously. We have been told not to wear this or that for fear that it will attract the wrong kind of people and the wrong kind of actions. We have been told since we were small that we are the weaker sex; that we should be careful and look out for ourselves. Even in taxis we should share our whereabouts so we can be tracked by friends, in case the driver abuses our trust. When will this stop?
I resent that women already feel like their movements and choices have been restricted. We have a right like men to walk safely on this Earth whether it is dark or not and yes, most men are kind and wouldn’t harm us, but why does a situation as simple as getting home from a friend’s house have to be fraught with so much fear, anxiety and in this awful case so much pain?