We asked Sheffield women what men can do to help them feel safer
‘Take the first no as an answer’
As well as these tips, women have been sharing their stories of sexual harassment and assault which has sparked a nationwide conversation about the treatment of women in society.
With the Guardian reporting that “virtually all young women in the UK have been subjected to harassment”, we spoke to women in Sheffield and asked – what can men do to help you feel safe?
No means no
Sheffield Hallam student, Sarah, shared what men can do to help her feel safe, starting with the basics. “Please just take the first no as an answer and not as an invitation to persuade me.”
In a similar message, Uni of Sheffield student Lily* shared: “Take the hint when you’re clearly making someone uncomfortable.”
Don’t ignore your mates behaviour
Economics graduate, Bethany, told us: “Don’t turn a blind eye to one of your mates when they treat a girl poorly. Having those difficult conversations with friends instead of ‘not taking sides’ is so important to dismantle casual sexism.”
Third year, Maria, added: “Stop ignoring situations that are happening in front of you. From stopping a friend when they tell a misogynistic joke to saving a woman from a situation that they may deem ‘none of their business’.
“Luckily there are men out there that do this already but it is only a small handful of them.”
In fewer words of the same meaning, student, Nicola, said “Just call out the bullsh*t behaviour of your mates.”
Cross the street when it’s dark
Sarah also wanted to tell the men of Sheffield: “If there is enough room, don’t walk directly behind us when I’m walking alone and/or it’s dark.”
Hallam student, Claire, added: “At night, if you see a girl alone, please cross the street so she doesn’t think you’re following her.”
Be aware of women in nightclubs
Tegan is asking for men to be aware of the female nightclub experience: “Please be aware of the women around you at clubs. If you see a woman who seems uncomfortable, please step in and see if you can help her.”
Whilst Hallam student, Kiera says: “There’s no need to grab our waists when you move past us in a bar or club. Just walk past. It can be petrifying having a random person grab your waist when all they need to do is tap my shoulder or something to get past.”
Clothes do not equal consent
President of the UoS ‘Women in Engineering’ society, Vaia, has urged men to “stop assuming that girls in thigh-high or short dresses are desparate for sex.”
UoS student, Natasha, also added: “Don’t comment on a stranger’s appearance in public, the majority of women won’t find it flattering and will just end up feeling uncomfortable.”
Understand the severity
PhD student, Iris, shared: “Men should speak up more about these problems and the lack of conversation on their part shows that most of them are failing to recognise the severity of these issues.
“Ask your girl mates about how they feel when someone is staring at them when they’re alone or when a stranger approaches them in a bar/club even when they’ve said no.
“We will be stuck in this cycle forever if men do not address these problems because they aren’t personally affected.”
The Sheffield Tab also spoke to some male students on what they are already doing to help women to feel safe.
UoS student, Harry, told us: “I think I have always been more aware of the issues women deal with when walking around at night because I have two sisters. Most of my mates have no sisters so the concept of being mindful of how women perceive them at night seemed alien to them.
“Sheffield City Council should absolutely reconsider the proposal they denied regarding more lighting in parks to make them a little bit safer.”
Hugo and James both stated that they recognise the importance of listening to women and spreading their experiences. James said: “Honestly, sometimes you just have to listen and really care when women open up to you” and Hugo said: “I am trying to help spread the word on what we can all do to help them feel safer.”
*Names changed upon request for anonymity
If you have been impacted by these stories or need support for sexual harassment, please contact the services below:
- Sheffield Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (SRASAC) – 01142412766
- SSiD (UoS students)
- Report + Support (Hallam students)
- Supportline – 01708765200, [email protected]
- Lifecentre – 08088020808 (freephone) 07717989022 (textline)