With the unfortunate death of Sarah Everard on everyone’s minds, a debate surrounding women’s safety has arisen with women sharing their experiences and rallying together on social media to share support and criticise the patriarchal system, further encouraging their persecution.
Writing about women’s issues I’ve had to make sure I address men as I want guys to feel able to speak about sexual harassment they’ve faced. The simple fact, though, is that it disproportionately impacts women and is often a gender motivated crime. This fear of being critiqued for writing about women’s voices shows the overwhelming backlash demonstrated against women sharing their experiences and wanting to avoid being abused in the street walking home from work, their partners or school. This issue needs tackling with education to encourage a greater understanding. The growing unity of women opening up about their experiences shows how we won’t let this issue continue. By discussing the issues we begin to tackle it with solidarity and consideration.
The persistent objectification of women has resulted in them being viewed as objects, enabling people to feel they can harass them in the streets. It downgrades womenfolk in status within the media, the workplace and education deeming them as less than equal, justifying the harassment faced. Facing sexual harassment is a common issue for women. According to a YouGov poll for UN women roughly seven out of ten women say they’ve faced some form of sexual harassment in public. Sexual harassment isn’t a new phenomenon for women and recently released statistics show (according to a survey from UN Women UK) that 80% of all women, in the UK have state they’ve experienced sexual harassment in public spaces. These shocking statistics clearly explain the ever present fear for many women of being out at night, walking home alone or even going to work.
There is confusion surrounding what these statistics mean. Is there a distinction between sexual harassment and sexual assault? Yes. Sexual harassment is unwanted sexual behaviour of any kind including verbal and physical actions, which can include catcalling and up-skirting that creates an unsafe and hostile environment. Sexual assault on the other hand refers to physical actions only. Therefore whilst 80% of the female population have experienced sexual harassment, this doesn’t mean they have necessarily experienced sexual assault. This doesn’t make it any less serious or damaging an issue.
Violence against women has significantly impacted the lives of women, directly for those who have faced assaults and indirectly as a larger group, effectively resulting in ‘guidelines’ for women to improve their safety. Meanwhile education to deter men from assaulting women is rarely discussed. Women are advised to buy alarm pendants, rings and nail polish to test if their drink has been spiked, apps to track their movements; to ring a friend if they’re being followed or ‘cover up’ to prevent unwanted attraction. Yet education teaching youths and men not to assault women, spike drinks, stalk them or dismiss the idea of consent seems to be incredibly sparse.
The warnings for females in Grimsby can be seen, with girls being told not to go down Freeman Street late at night or the cut through from Westward Ho to Littlefield Lane, a route many students use. Restrictions are placed on women at every turn. Don’t wear that dress, it’s too revealing. Don’t go there without your friends. Don’t walk alone at night. The list of “don’ts” is extensive, but very rarely do you hear males being told they can’t assault women.
For the majority of women these pre-emptive measures aren’t unusual and the threat of sexual harassment is far too familiar. The recently released statistics aren’t what I find unusual. What’s unusual is this conversation being initiated. The Femicide census shows that over ten years up to 2018, 1,425 women were killed by men, meaning roughly every 3 days a woman is killed by a man. This isn’t a new issue. Therefore why has the death of Sarah Everard triggered such an overwhelming response?
Potentially due to a growth in activism, potentially due to the pandemic so people are beginning to notice the news more.
Or potentially because Sarah Everard did everything we are told to do.
Article by Young Reporter Grace
First appeared in the Grimsby Telegraph 30th March 2021