I have been wondering if I should write a post about an issue that has been at the forefront of our minds for the past few weeks. I have so many emotions and I am afraid they might come out a mess. But it is coming from a place of pain. When you talk about pain it sometimes comes out messy. Before I say anything I want to say that my comments about safety do not only apply to women – they apply to all of us – everyone should be able to feel safe, but sadly all of us are occasionally threatened by what we can only describe as either crime or perhaps wickedness. I am writing this from a woman’s perspective because I am a woman and because this week the issue of women’s safety has been highlighted again in the media.
If you live in the UK, you will no doubt be aware of a very upsetting incident of serious crime that took place in South London and Kent recently. A beautiful young woman named Sarah Everard was making her way home at around 9:30pm….I am still finding myself overwhelmed by thinking of what happened. Representatives for the Metropolitan Police have described what was done to her as “wicked”. I am afraid I am not going to be able to cope with any more details than that.
Many people, but especially women, have felt a great outcry of pain and anger about this particular case, for various reasons. There has been a lot added to the conversations about this heinous crime. The simple fact is that many have felt less safe as they walk alone especially in the evening since this awful reminder that there are people out there who have the most disturbing thoughts going through their minds and are perhaps waiting for an opportunity to carry them out. Many women are insistent that they should not have to feel fear walking or running alone. Many women are angry about women being objectified as sex objects. Anger about harassment, sexism, misogyny and more is heated right now.
My friends and I have had conversations over the past ten days or so. I have my own experiences of harassment and being treated in appropriately. The more I think about it the more I remember occasions when strangers on public transport put their hand on my legs or made a lewd comment. I had a boss who was extremely inappropriate. In my case, it did not trigger fear, it triggered anger and I acted decisively. Some of my friends have had much worse. Some of my friends have been followed by strangers, received suggestive remarks or lewd comments from strangers. Some of them have actually been groped which is classed as a sexual assault. Others have had men expose their genitals to them.
Most of these incidents occurred when they were either on public transport, sometimes with other passengers nearby, or walking a relatively short distance to their homes. Many of my friends have told me that their experiences happened in broad day light. Three of my friends have been raped as adult women, one was beaten so badly after being raped that police thought her attacker had left her for dead. But she survived.
All of this is just so awful and I feel shaken like many of my friends because incidents like those mentioned above seem to be so common. It feels like a loud voice is being raised by a sort of sisterhood who feel that enough is enough. Many are calling for radical changes now – more than better street lighting and CCTV.
But that is when I feel it gets complicated. Is it as simple as increasing police presence on the streets? What else can the authorities do? Pursue those who commit crimes – both those that might be considered more minor, yet despicable, and those which are wicked – and impose stiff penalties? Providing swift and effective judgements may be a deterrent to people who have wrong thoughts in their minds and are tempted to act on them when an opportunity arises.
Yet I think most of use realize that the problem is more deep rooted. One of my friends said that education is the answer. She said that men (and women) need to be educated that it is not alright to harass women, follow them, make lewd comments, touch them etc. That might seem obvious.
But we then ended up discussing how it is that men (and women) end up with disturbing thoughts in their mind. Everyone pointed to pornography and entertainment. That’s a big area. Anyone honest would admit that their choice of entertainment can effect them. But there are specifically films, television programs and pornographic books and video content that feature women being the victims of serious crimes (and sometimes men or children). Some of the most popular entertainment shows – for example popular mainstream shows like Game Of Thrones or Law & Order SVU– have featured rape and violence in their storylines. Television crime dramas are saturated with similar storylines. Some images are very hard to erase from your mind.
Most people who might watch an episode of their favourite show that depicts scenes of violence or sexual assault towards a woman (or a man) might not dwell on it afterwards. Perhaps they enjoy the show because the good guys catch the baddy and the perpetrator of those crimes is punished. I don’t know.
However, there are some people who will struggle with the thoughts planted in their minds. They might search for more and more content featuring violence of sexual assault – and there is a heck of a lot out there, which even very impressionable children have managed to access.
The same justice system that upholds legal freedoms to produce or to watch entertainment which features heinous crimes is also the same instrument we have to punish people who watched that entertainment and allowed a love for violence to grow in their mind and heart. In many cases it was a seed that came in the form of degraded entertainment that flourished in the mind of a person. Some people with those wrong thoughts in their mind saw an opportunity and acted out their thoughts – committing a horrific crime.
It distresses me. What happened to that beautiful young woman Sarah Everard has broken my heart. It is a reminder that there are people out there harbouring very wrong thoughts. It is a reminder that we should not be naïve about safety. Yes, I do think that all incidents of inappropriate behaviour should be reportable to the police and the police need clear guidelines they can follow to deter people from going onto do worse. People ought to understand the laws on sexual assault – and they should realize that they could be potentially be prosecuted for indecent exposure, stalking, harassment, sexual assault etc
I personally don’t think women (and even men) can realistically demand to feel safe all the time in a world where the justice system legalises violent entertainment and violent pornography and also has to punish people who act out what they have watched. In addition, any sensible parent knows that their children are vulnerable to those who might seek to harm them. So, while a parent may wish that this world was safe enough to allow their children to roam freely and enjoy playing in the woods without fear – that simply cannot take place. Parents know they need to protect their children.
So while I understand that some may feel that as women we should not have to change our behaviour, I feel as a woman I need to think more carefully about some of my choices. I wish that was not the case, but it is hard to know what disturbing thoughts someone might be carrying around inside of their mind. I might wish that this world was safe enough for me to go where I want, when I want, and to be alone….but while demonic entertainment and pornography put images of violent sexual assaults into people’s minds – the police and justice system are going to be facing an ongoing battle.
Right now – I don’t feel quite as safe as before this awful crime. I had a reminder that this world has problems that it has no idea how to solve completely. I am not enjoying much entertainment because there are so many shows featuring crimes and I don’t want those images in my head. I am not enjoying posts that appear in my WordPress Reader that feature non-consent scenarios, or violence. Even some of my own posts no longer make me feel comfortable so I have been editing or removing them.
WHEN WE HAVE TO GO BACK TO WORKING IN OUR OFFICES FULL-TIME, I WILL HAVE A TWO HOUR JOURNEY ON THE WAY TO WORK AND A TWO HOUR JOURNEY ON THE WAY HOME VIA PUBLIC TRANSPORT. I WANT TO FEEL SAFE WHEN TRAVELLING. IN THE SAME WAY AS I WOULD REPORT A STRANGER TO THE POLICE IF HE TRIED TO STEAL MY PURSE, IF A STRANGER PUTS HIS HAND ON MY THIGH OR ON MY BEHIND – I AM GOING TO REPORT YOU BECAUSE THAT IS NOT OK. YOU MOST LIKELY NEED TO BE EDUCATED ON WHAT IS ACCEPTABLE AND WHAT IS NOT, BUT IF YOU STILL THINK YOU CAN DO THAT, THEN YOU OUGHT TO BE APPREHENDED/PUNISHED BY THE POLICE/JUSTICE SYSTEM
I LOVE BEING A WOMAN – I LOVE BEING FEMININE – I AM NOT AN OBJECT. WHEN I CHOOSE TO WEAR A DRESS AND LIPSTICK, THAT IS NOT AN INVITATION FOR HARASSMENT. I AM ATTRACTED TO MEN WHO ARE KIND AND CARING. I ALSO LOVE CONSENSUAL SEX.
I AM NOT ATTRACTED TO MEN WHO DEMEAN WOMEN OR TREAT THEM ABUSIVELY. YOU MIGHT BE LOOKING FOR A CERTAIN TYPE OF WOMAN TO SHARE A CONSESUAL RELATIONSHIP WITH DYNAMICS INCLUDING HUMILATION, DOMINATION, INFLICTING PHYSICAL INJURIES, OR OTHER THINGS. BUT THAT IS NOT SOMETHING THAT APPEALS TO ME, SO PLEASE DESIST FROM SENDING ME COMMENTS ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT TO DO TO ME, BECAUSE I BELIEVE I HAVE GROUNDS TO REPORT YOU TO THE POLICE. IF YOU DO FIND A WOMAN WHO TRULY WANTS THAT – YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR HER MENTAL AND PHYSICAL SAFETY.
I AM A WOMAN THAT STRUGGLES TO RECONCILE HOW THIS WORLD’S JUSTICE SYSTEM CAN UPHOLD PEOPLE’S RIGHTS TO PRODUCE AND WATCH DEMONICLY VIOLENT ENTERTAINMENT, FEEDING THEIR MINDS WITH IMAGES OF CRIMES AND AT THE SAME TIME HAS TO ACT AGAINST PEOPLE WHO HAVE ACTED ON THOSE IMAGES. I DO NOT FEEL SAFE WHEN THIS IS THE TWISTED REALITY OF THE WORLD WE LIVE IN.
I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR ALL THE MEN WHO CHOOSE TO BE GOOD MEN – KIND, CARING, LOVING, RESPECTFUL AND I APPRECIATE THAT THEY MADE THE CHOICE TO FEED THEIR MIND WITH GOODNESS. MEN LIKE YOU MAKE ME FEEL SAFER IN THIS WORLD. AND THIS IS THE POINT – WE MAKE CHOICES THAT EFFECT OUR CONSCIENCE. IT TAKES A STRONG MAN (OR WOMAN) TO SEE THE LINK BETWEEN WHAT YOU FEED YOUR MIND AND WHAT YOU BECOME. I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR BEN, WHO IS A MAN WHO TAKES RESPONSIBILTY FOR HIS OWN THOUGHTS AND PROTECTS HIS CONSCIENCE. I FEEL SAFER WHEN I KNOW THERE IS SOMEONE WHO LOVES ME AND WANTS ME TO BE SAFE.
I AM A WOMAN WHO WANTS TO FEEL SAFE, BUT IS NOT NAIVE. I WILL CONTINUE TO BE CAUTIOUS AND I WILL REMEMBER THAT THERE ARE PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO HARBOUR SERIOUSLY WRONG THOUGHTS IN THEIR MINDS. I AM NOT GOING TO LIVE IN FEAR, BUT I AM GOING TO LIVE WITH SOME CAUTION BECAUSE THIS WORLD HAS CREATED MONSTROUS PROBLEMS THAT IT DOES NOT KNOW HOW TO CONTROL.
I AM A WOMAN AND I AM NOT AFRAID TO BE ME. WHILE I AM NOT GOING TO ALLOW MYSELF TO BE UNREASONABLY FEARFUL, IN ALL TRUTH, NEITHER CAN I FEEL SAFE IN THIS CONFUSED WORLD.