I nearly didn’t write this, but then it true me style I thought, “fuck it” I mean it needs to be said doesn’t it? We’re all a bit guilty of this to be honest, myself included. You’ve all probably seen the news of Sarah Everard and the wave of social media posts shouting out about not all men and women should be allowed to walk down the street etc. A lot also being fuelled due to the post international women’s day buzz.
Now I’m not saying that this is all men, I completely agree, not all men are perpetrators of abusive behaviour, just like not all victims of abuse are female and I don’t want anyone to think that that’s what I’m suggesting. What I am suggesting though is that we do often inadvertently place blame on the victim. Why did they go there alone? Why didn’t they get a taxi? They shouldn’t have drank so much etc etc. Then follow it up with a “but not every one is like that.” Now these things are true, they are, whether we like it or not, they are true. No not everyone is like that, fact. Not everyone will physically or sexually abuse another person, not everyone will nurse someone. Fact. But additionally we all know that walking home alone in the dark puts you at risk, we all know that putting yourself in a variety of positions puts you at risk. Fact. It’s not right, but we know it’s true, it’s why many of us don’t do it and why we warn our loved ones about doing it. Because as much as it’s wrong and not the way we should have to live, it’s all true that it’s brings about a risk. Fact is, actually we should all be able to go about our business however we want whenever we want without the worry that we may get in harms way.
I don’t really know what the answer is to be honest but I know it’s a thing that bothers me. We all do it, at some point, we victim shame. Even if we don’t mean to, I openly admit I’ve done it, I’ve read news articles of women going home late from a party, nightclubs or whatever and then falling victim to abduction or an attack, then said to myself or someone close by, “aw but why did they leave on their own” or something if that ilk. And to be honest I didn’t mean it in a nasty or blame way, I meant it in a sympathetic, wish for their own sake that they hadn’t made that choice. But in reality, we should be looking at why these perpetrators attack and addressing that, I guess though none of us really know how, so instead we look at putting safety measures and precautions in place.
It’s not right though is it. I mean I was told during my abusive relationship that I should or shouldn’t do this or that in order to prevent myself from falling foul again to that behaviour. I was openly told it was my own fault I was treated that way, that I caused it. Truth, yeah it was my own fault, my own fault because I stayed. My own fault because I tolerated that behaviour and because I went back continually believing someone was going to change. Not my fault because of anything I said or did and I shouldn’t have been victim shamed by anyone into believing I deserved that treatment. I wasn’t to blame, I wasn’t the one behaving inappropriately, I wasn’t the one in the wrong yet I was led to believe that and chastised ultimately for just being me.
I think it often starts young too, I’ve heard people say before about the boys in the playground pulling the hair of the girl because they fancy them and that behaviour being tolerated and little girls being told that, “he does it because he likes you!” It’s only small scale but it’s not right is it, it doesn’t send a good message. Now I’m not saying friendly banter and light hearted teasing isn’t fun, it’s often a key element of flirty fun, but a line of tolerance and a boundary should also be able to be drawn. People should be able to calmly and confidently say, “I’m sorry that’s a bit too far and offensive” and that be accepted and addressed by the other person appropriately.
Also get that it’s hard though, especially as a mum. I want little P to learn the balance between interacting and playing with her friends in a variety of ways, the art of standing up for herself fairly and when she needs to proceed with caution and ensure she’s safe without being scared. I know she’s far too young for the “don’t come home alone after a night on the piss” lecture or the, “don’t let a partner treat you badly” speech, but she is forming friendships and relationships with different friends and people and the teaching of healthily relationships and boundaries does start now.
I’ve been doing it myself recently, discussing my running and training patterns and how I’m limited with my outdoor runs at the moment due to childcare and not wanting to put people out to look after little P whilst I run, meaning I also give up time with her. I’ve been mentioned how once nights get lighter it’s not as much to ask someone to sit in the house whilst I go for a run in the evening sun but that at the moment it’s too dark to do so and not safe. Which is true, but it’s not the way it should be and if I were to, I’d be not playing music in my headphones and running on the well lit busier streets etc in order to stay safe. And I’m sure if anything were to happen to me people would say, “why didn’t she run when it was lighter?”
I have the Hollyguard and One Scream apps on my phone. I have motioned censored security lights for when I pull up on my drive late at night. I prep as much as any other woman does to stay safe. But should I have to? Should any of us live in a world where we have to go to such lengths to protect ourselves?
I know I don’t have the answers and I know not all men are the *insert crime here* perpetrators and I know it’s not always females that fall victim. But the fact is I as a woman will not go out alone late at night without the safety of another person and/or my locked car, yet a lot of my male friends will without batting a eyelid. I also know that most of my female friends feel the same. I also know that I hear more comments following a new report like Sarah Everard’s story about how she shouldn’t have been out alone. I also know that we all, male, female, tall, short, whatever, shouldn’t have to question whether it’s safe for us to go somewhere.