It has been twenty four hours since I discovered the harrowing events following the disappearance of Sarah Everard. Twenty four hours I have felt a variety of emotions: pain, worry, fear, hurt. And I am aware none of them will compare to how her family and friends are feeling right now.
Sarah Everard was simply walking home from a friend's house when she went missing. The time she was walking, the clothes she was wearing and/or the shoes she had on her feet shouldn't matter. But she is a woman, so of course it does.
For too many women, myself included, the details of Everard's story have been a chilling reminder of the fear we carry when walking alone. Will my clothes attract male attention? Have I got a friend to text/facetime throughout my journey? Are my keys between my fingers and is my rape alarm in my bag? Are my shoes safe to run in if I find myself getting followed...again? Regardless of the length of our dresses, height of our heels or darkness of the night,
Women are never the ones to blame: we are victims.
And we are so fucking tired of being scared to be alone.
Although I am sure you have already seen the statistic, I would like to remind you again. 97% of women aged 18-24 have been sexually harassed. 97%. Be it your Mother, friend, sister, girlfriend or colleague, 97% of women you know will have a story about the time they were either catcalled, grabbed in a club, followed down the street. Each time we leave our houses alone we automatically become subject to our biggest fear. And it's all because we don't have a dick swinging between our legs.
Whilst I am extremely lucky to have supportive, educated men in my life who acknowledge the severity and importance of sexual harassment towards women, I know this is not the case for everyone. (I mean obviously, hence why some men sexually assault... but you know what I mean) And Twitter's latest hashtag #NotAllMen makes this extremely evident.
Not All Men?????!!! HUH???
Do you want a pat on the back for doing the bare minimum? Praise and clout because you're not out raping and abusing women in the streets? You have had higher pay, better job opportunities, you're not afraid to be alone at night and now you want to make women's trauma about you too? You don't get a thanks for being a 'good guy', I'm afraid.
"What does deserve praise then?" I hear you ask. "What can we do to prevent this?". The easiest and probably most effective way? Listen to us women. Read our tweets, our facebook posts, and actually take in the stories we tell you. Much like the BLM and Me Too movements, they might be uncomfortable conversations in the beginning, but it's important that you know where you stand within the structure. Call out your friends, brothers, cousins and sons. Refuse to join in on their sexist jokes and banter. Call out behaviour you know is inappropriate. Second guess yourself when you say we're overreacting as we claim a guy is following us in the street. We know what signs to recognise, he hasn't crossed the road for the eight time for the good of his health, Brian.
And please, please remember that no item of clothing or hour of the night will ever justify you grabbing us in the club or shouting at us in the street.
We don't think it's a compliment and we're not going to shag you.