Sarah Everard – what is it like to walk alone as a woman?

When hearing about the disappearance of Sarah Everard, too many women can account for a similar experience they or a woman they know have endured. I think it’s safe to say one of mine and other women’s biggest fear is being followed home, as we have heard too many harrowing tales of women being targeted for no reason other than that they are simply: a woman.

Sarah Everard was walking home from her friend’s house, at a fairly respectable time. Not that any of these things really matter, as women should be able to walk anywhere they like at whatever time they like. But unfortunately, this is just not feasible for women. I used to think the fear of being followed, kidnapped or murdered when walking alone was a part of life, but as I grew older, I realised it was part of being a woman.

Many young girls are told to wear correct clothing, avoid dangerous areas, and make sure to be aware of their surroundings. But what happens when we make sure to do all of this? By saying women have to take these procedures, we are spreading the rhetoric that if they don’t, they deserve to get attacked. Or better still, a woman who has not taken out these protocols deserves to get attacked instead. Women like Sarah Everard still become a victim, and this now brings up the discourse of it isn’t women or what women do that are the problem – it’s men.

What women need is to feel safe in places they should be able to roam freely, and for men to understand what kind of procedure women have to undergo to just feel protected when on their own.

Of course not ALL men, but when I am walking down a dark street with fears of being kidnapped, I am not thinking a woman will attack me. You could say this is due to a stereotype, but when 1 in 3 women are assaulted by a man in their lifetime, and 97% of women in the UK have been sexually harassed, hashtags such as #NotAllMen become redundant. 

In the same week of International Women’s Day, what women do not need is to be reminded that not all men commit these kinds of crimes. What women need is to feel safe in places they should be able to roam freely, and for men to understand what kind of procedure women have to undergo to just feel protected when on their own. Whether that be holding keys between our fingers, pretending to be on the phone, or constantly looking over our shoulder, many men haven’t realised their privilege of freely walking to and from places at night, without feeling the need to think about these things. Why does it take a woman like Sarah Everard to go missing, for tips of what men can do to make women feel safe to go viral?

Many women are sharing their stories online, proving that our fears are not alone in this world, and there are people out there who are willing to listen and share experiences.

Unfortunately, we cannot prevent what happened to Sarah Everard. We can only hope the perpetrator who is responsible for their crime is found and sentenced. Her memory will live on. But what we, women and men, can do, is look out for each other more. Whether that is men editing their behaviour to make women feel safe, or women pretending to be other women’s friend to make them feel more secure, there is always more we can do. 

Although the posts of how men can help women walking alone at night are long overdue, they are better late than never. I hope men read up on them, remember them and perform them in the safest way possible. Many women are sharing their stories online, proving that our fears are not alone in this world, and there are people out there who are willing to listen and share experiences. I hope women feel the positive effect of Sarah’s story, that the importance of safety in our streets needed to be talked about and treated differently, and will hopefully make a difference for us in the future. 

Sarah Everard did everything right. She did not deserve whatever happened to her, and neither did many women before her. I hope her and her family get the justice, and peace that they deserve. 

By Natalie Horrobin

Image: by Jacob Boavista via Unsplash

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