(Trigger warning- this blog covers various topics that some may find distressing, including suicide and rape)
Following the disappearance of Sarah Everard, a 33 year old who was last seen in Clapham South London on 3 March at around 9pm, many have been criticising the fact that she was doing a 50 minute walk home by her self when it was dark.
I am a 23 year old female who works nights as a delivery driver. I’ve been on unlit, privately owned roads (so not maintained by the local authority) at 1 o’clock in the morning doing deliveries. If something was to happen and I was a man, nobody would batter an eye. But, as a female, people will say:
‘Going down there are 1am with an expensive phone and a fancy motorbike…Sorry gal. Big big mistake. Going there after dawn is looking for trouble’
‘When will these women learn from the past? Should have been accompanied’
‘She shouldn’t have been in an isolated are alone’
How do I know people would say this? Because it’s exactly these comments that have been made by people in relation to Sarah’s disappearance
The issue here isn’t women wearing short skirts, going out late at night or having expensive phones. The issue here are the rapists, the murderers, the muggers and other criminals.
If you own a TV, does that mean you deserve to have it stolen? No.
If you own a mobile phone, does that mean you deserve to be mugged and/or stabbed? No.
If a women is walking home at night, does that mean she deserves to have something happen to her? No.
As mentioned, I work nights as a food delivery driver. I am driving through all parts of London and the outskirts of London late at night. I’ve had to walk through alley ways, inside blocks of flats, drive down unlit roads and walk down side streets. Does that mean I deserve to have something happen to me? No. I am simply going about my day, doing my job. Some would say only men should do this work but why should I let my gender stop me from pursuing a career?
I have an Iphone and a brightly coloured motorbike. Does that mean I deserve to have them stolen? No. Many couriers are in fact targeted and have their vehicles stolen whilst working; many of whom try to fight off the thief and sadly get injured in the process. Do we deserve to be victims of crime just for owning a vehicle and providing an essential service? No.
My whole life, I’ve been taught ‘men are dangerous’. I’ve been told I’m not allowed to be alone in the same room as male friends with the door shut, despite knowing them for many years. As a teenager, if I was to have had male friends, I wouldn’t have dared say I was going out with a male friend. I would have lied, pretending they’re female.
I’ve always been told I’m not allowed to do many things that my brothers were allowed to do when they were the same age. My brothers have always had far more freedom than me in terms of rules, even though I am far more independent than them. The reason? I’m female.
I wasn’t allowed to go to the park at 4pm on hot, sunny days in the Summer holidays when I was 16. Yet my brother was allowed on a cold, cloudy day in January at the age of 12.
I had to argue for the freedom to be allowed to get the bus to and from school at the age of 12. My brothers were given that freedom as soon as they started secondary school aged 11.
I wasn’t allowed to go to night clubs or bars as an adult. I was lying about the my whereabouts at 19 years old (which is when I first went clubbing). My brothers were allowed to go to house parties at 16 (they don’t like clubbing).
I was always told (post-10 years old) to cover my knees and shoulders, even when in my own home. Yet my brothers could walk around the house in their boxers.
At 16 years old, I wasn’t allowed to do the 10 minute walk home from my local high street at night. Yet when my brother was 16, there was no problem him doing that exact same walk home.
Despite being told of all the things I am not allowed to do, I was never given any practical advice. We should not be telling women what they can and or can’t do. What we should be telling them is how they can keep themselves safe (same applies for males, as they can be the victim of crime too) :
- What to do when you think you’re being followed
- What to do if you feel unsafe
- Self defence
Another thing that I was never told was what rape was. I was always given the impression rape is when a man approaches a female (typically in an alleyway or park) and attacks her. I was never taught that if your partner has sex with you without your consent, that’s rape. Heck, I was never even taught what consent is (nor what boundaries are or anything about how to be in a healthy relationship).
90% of rapists are known to the survivor prior to the rape. And rape is never the survivors fault. That means, you’re 9 times more likely to be raped by somebody you know, than you are to be raped by a stranger when walking (day or night time).
My brothers, who I have no doubt are decent people, were never taught:
- How not to be a rapist
- How not to make women feel unsafe
- How not to make women feel threatened
Rather than telling women not to go out late, how about we tell men not to make it unsafe for us?
In light of Sarah’s disappearance, women are being told to not go out late. Why?
Why not tell everyone to not go out late, so that neither victims nor perpetrators are out? Or why not tell men not to go out late, so that it’s just women in the street?
After any incident involving women, there is criticism of why was she out late? Or why was she wearing a short skirt? Or why was she drinking alcohol?
None of these are reasons for women to be a victim of crime.
My lack of freedom as a teenager affected me so much that it was the main contributing factor to me wanting to take my own life on 2 separate occasions. I felt what was the point in living if, as a 17 year old, I’m not even allowed to have a night out with a friend. I didn’t see that anything in my life would improve when I was told I’ll be stopped from going abroad 5 days before my 18th birthday because I’m female (amongst other reasons, but being female was the main one). Over the years, it sadly didn’t improve considerably.
As a 23 year old, I am still told I am not allowed to do things, because I’m female. This, amongst other reasons, has led me to completely cut off both parents from my life. Whilst some would argue that they are doing it for my own protection, I would rather be able to live my life (of course being precocious, as everyone, irrespective of gender, should be) than never go out in fear that something may happen.
Rather than telling women not to go out, we as a society teach both men and women how to keep themselves safe as well as teaching both how not to make other people feel unsafe.
As mentioned, these comments on social media have been made following the disappearance of Sarah Everard, a 33 year old last seen by a doorbell camera at 9:30pm on walking along the A205 Poynders Road from the junction at Cavendish Road, toward Tulse Hill in Clapham South London.
If you have any information, no matter how small, please contact the police on 101 with reference CAD107.
If you hear any speculation, no matter how accurate you think or know it is, from any unofficial sources, please do not share these on social media. This can cause unnecessary distress to those who know Sarah. Despite what people may think, these speculations can also negatively effect the police investigation into what has happened to Sarah