Stop warning women against walking alone at night. We’re not the problem

It’s men who need to change their behaviour

It’s always a terrifying time to be a woman when a story comes up in the news reporting another woman has disappeared. 33-year-old Sarah Everard was reported missing last week and she’s still yet to be found. As a result of her disappearance, women in the Clapham area have been told to not go out alone at night. This response isn’t good enough but it’s also the response women have been facing for decades.

As a woman walking alone at night, I know to keep my keys clenched in my hand and avoid wearing earphones so that I can listen out for approaching footsteps. I’ll pretend to be on the phone to a mate or my mum and pray in my head that the man walking towards me isn’t going to attack me. Sometimes I’ll walk in the middle of the road, just to be sure I won’t get pulled into the back of a van and I’ll always be visible in the street lights. All I want to do is get home safely – just like Sarah Everard wanted to.

The police need to stop telling women not to walk home alone at night. It’s condescending and it makes us feel as though it’s our fault if something happens to us. The reality is: it’s men who need to change their behaviour.

If I don’t want to be sexually assaulted or harmed outside, then it shouldn’t be on me to stay indoors. I shouldn’t be placed under house arrest because the police are focusing their efforts in the wrong places. Women live their whole lives in fear of being the victim to a man’s violence and the police aren’t making an effort to take a step back and realise it’s men who need to be taught better social attitudes towards women.

The police have no right to frighten any woman into changing her social behaviour and force her to think twice before she leaves the house or not. Stop telling us to not walk at night, we are aware and we are constantly reminded of the risks.

Just to be crystal clear: if a man were to rob or assault me at 2am as I was walking home – he is to blame. Just because I am a woman, it doesn’t mean I’m not suppose to be in a public space at certain times throughout the day. I am at the age in which girls are encouraged to become more independent, so it’s time the police stop trying to discourage me from engaging with my independence. The police need to work harder and make a real effort to help facilitate it.

Stop focusing on women’s choices and start focusing on finding the men who attack us. The way the police victim blame women suggests to us that us being raped or getting murdered is inevitable. Being assaulted as a woman isn’t something that is naturally meant to happen in our lives, it’s not our duty to go out of our way and avoid it. So while the police tell us to lock ourselves inside and not go out alone, what are men being told to do? Are they being told to stop attacking us? Because it doesn’t look like they are.

Feature image credited to Alexander Popov on Unspalsh

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