‘I was terrified’: 85 per cent of female Soton students do not feel safe walking at night

‘A car followed me in Portswood’

Hearing the news of Sarah Everard and the circumstances of her disappearance and murder is something as women we are told to acknowledge and remember. There have been many cases of girls and women disappearing, this needs to change.

According to the Femicide Census, between 2009 and 2018, one woman was murdered on average every three days throughout the UK. This figure is shocking and horrific – however, unfortunately many women, including myself, are not surprised by this statistic at all.

Following a recent poll conducted on our Instagram page, 85 per cent of female students of Southampton feel unsafe walking outside at night. These are people you know, people you care about, and they should not have to feel unsafe.

Here are just some of the stories of female students feeling unsafe in Southampton:

Ashleigh told The Soton Tab: “I was in the park by Southampton Central when a group of kids almost physically attacked me because of how I looked in broad daylight, they only stopped because someone shouted at them.”

The women we talked to mentioned Portswood as a place where they felt extremely unsafe. Polly* told The Soton Tab: “I was walking along Portswood near the McDonald’s and Highfield at about 8pm and this car pulls up just ahead of me, obviously I don’t think anything of it so I carry on walking, then once I’m in front of it, it pulls out again and drives along slowly so it’s level with me and then pulls up in front of me again.

“Then it pulls out a third time, drives level with me and I look round and they’ve opened the door. It was like a people carrier type car, but once I look round they close the door and keep driving behind me, so I turn right down a side road to see if they follow me which they do, they turn down that road and drive further up just round the bend in the road so I turn around and run back up the side road and keep going along the main road and thankfully they didn’t follow me.”

Image credit: Elena Vardon

Charlotte* is another woman who has experienced unwanted advances by men in Portswood: “The other week at 7pm I was walking down Portswood High Street and a car pulled over and asked me for directions and the driver was masturbating in his car and kept driving slowly next to me. He got to the lights and then sped off but it left me really shook up.”

Pippa experienced harassment right outside her front door: “I walked 10 yards from my car to my house on Portswood Road and got told how nice of an arse I had by some men on New Year’s Eve. They wouldn’t stop talking to me until I managed to get into my house.”

Jess* had been harrassed in a club: “It had been one of my first times clubbing, and I ended up having to leave alone. I was stopped by an older man in his 30s, and he tried pressuring me to go with him and kept on asking for my name.

“I was terrified. I had low battery on my phone, but some girls were behind me and could see I was uncomfortable and pretended they knew me. Luckily, I managed to get away.”

We do everything to ensure we are safe but we are still harrassed

Women and girls are given endless “advice” for walking alone, we’re told to look confident when walking alone, to not take shortcuts, and (one that was drilled into our brains when we arrive at university in Southampton), to not walking through the Common at night.

Cases similar to Sarah’s have happened in Southampton too. In 2003, Hannah Foster was making her way home after meeting a friend in the evening, and she never made it back. She was abducted from Upper Shaftesbury Avenue after being followed and later, she was raped and murdered. The heart-breaking story is the subject of Netflix true crime documentary Real Crime: Hannah’s Killer.

There shouldn’t be a need to protect young women, men and boys need to be educated on consent, boundaries, and their pervasive patriarchal privileges. Already, we have seen progress coming from our peers, with the recent introduction of the University of Southampton Consent Awareness and Sexual Health Education Society, which is a step forward into preventing appalling incidents that we have seen recently in the media.

What has been moving to witness in the aftermath of Sarah’s disappearance, is the power behind social media and our voices. Undoubtedly, if we can protest and show our solidarity with each other, we can utilise this influence to our advantage, so young women can safely get home as deserved.

*Names have been changed. 

Featured image credit: Elena Vardon.

Related articles recommended by this writer:

As women we should be able to walk home safely, but these stories prove we can’t

• Women are sharing how men can make them feel more safe at night

There’s a new Netflix true crime documentary based in Portswood that is absolutely terrifying