Over the last few weeks, there has been an outpour on social media about the safety of women on the streets of the UK.
After learning the horrific news about Sarah Everard, the nation has posed the question as to why women feel so unsafe. It has been stated in the media that Sarah did ‘the right things’ – as in she wore bright clothing, stayed in a public area and even contacted her partner. These things are normal for us women, they have been integrated into our behaviour ever since we could leave the house without our parents. So, why did these instinctive methods fail Sarah?
Amid learning about Sarah, discussion began to circulate on social media which led to questions around people’s safety. So, what can we do as locals to make both men and women in the area feel safe in our area?
Keep your distance
We should be accustomed to keeping our distance from others after spending the last year in a pandemic. Sometimes, if I am walking by myself after a night out, I’ll continuously check over my shoulder for anyone walking behind me. Whether they are on the same side of the road as me or not, I will become more aware – and often always speed up. There have even been times where I have been spooked and will take the longer route home to see if they follow. Keeping your distance is simple and easily done.
Educate your mates
When I moved to university, I got my first bar job. At first, I was ecstatic that I had been welcomed into such a close-knit group. But over time I slowly started to realise just how inappropriate their ‘banter’ was. I constantly received comments saying “your bum looks good today”. But I never had the courage to call them out, and no one else ever did either.
It made me feel uncomfortable at work; an environment that should remain safe and harassment-free. If I had the courage to tell them, my colleagues, who were also my friends, that I was uncomfortable then maybe they would have reigned it in or stopped completely. And work would have felt safer.
Offer help to ANYONE in distress
This message applies to everyone, both men and women. If you are out and see someone that looks distressed, assist them. For me, this is instinct and common sense. Wouldn’t you want someone to help you?
Make your face visible
This relates to keeping your distance. I will always remember at secondary school my teachers telling us in an assembly that when out in the area we should keep our hoods down – especially when it’s dark. It can be daunting, to anyone. The simple act of keeping your hood down can put someone at ease.
Many people stereotype this to be builders, but it can come from anyone, anywhere. Whether you are out on a run and a driver honks their horn, or someone makes comment in passing – anything can be terrifying and uncomfortable.
If anyone, no matter the gender, opens up to you, then listen and support them. Don’t judge, it’s NEVER their fault, ever. It may be upsetting to listen to someone opening up, but remember how much courage it will have taken them to bring themselves to talk about it.
It’s vital that as a community we can come together and support each other. Support friends, colleagues and even strangers. Let’s make a change and make our streets safer. With lockdown beginning to lift and plans for clubs to reopen in the summer, now is the perfect time to start.
Support and services
Across the country, there are several confidential services that work with victims of sexual assault. In Teesside, Arch North East has operated for more than twenty years and have been supporting both men and women. Most importantly, their service is free.
Arch is part of the nationally recognised Rape Crisis England and Wales (RCEW) network. Meaning, their service is of high quality. With Arch, members of Teesside that have experienced any form of sexual assault or abuse can seek guidance and support – without judgement. An important thing for everyone to remember is that whether you have reported it to the police or not, you are entitled to help.
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