Ok you’re not harming us, but are you doing anything to help us? Why men shouting #notallmen should learn from the boy that took it upon himself to ensure my safety.
In the wake of the Sarah Everard news this week, I wanted to share a personal story of a time when I have felt scared and vulnerable, just as so many women do walking in the day and night. With recent conversations around Sarah’s death drawing attention to women’s safety, it’s clear that men need to take responsibility when it comes to the fear we feel and educating other men.
The harsh reality is, Sarah could have been any one of us, and that really hit home for me. Whether it’s holding your keys between your fingers or tucking your hair inside your jacket, we can all resonate with the conversations that are happening now – all but some…
I’m sharing my story because I want to address the hashtag #NotAllMen. There have been some great responses to this, like this analogy by scummymummies and Jameela Jamil’s tweet above. And while we are well aware not all men are going to harm us, on the other hand it seems not all men are willing to acknowledge the fear we feel, be proactive, stand with us, and educate other men? The boy in my story did all that and more, and I believe is a great subject for other men to learn from.
I was 19 years old, in my first year at university. I’d had far too much to drink at a nightclub so took myself outside. I sat down on the curb and started to be sick. I couldn’t hold my head up. I knew I needed to get back to my flat, but my body was a dead weight. I had no concept of time but I remember watching people’s feet walk past me, as I held my head in my hands. I remember people laughing at me, calling me names. No one offered to help me for a long time, absolutely no one. Until a boy approached me.
When you’re in a state like that things like intuition go out the window. I wasn’t studying his mannerism, his tone of voice, if there were any signs to alert me to the fact he was dangerous. I was scared, as most women are when they’re alone and under the influence of alcohol, because I knew I was powerless. My speech was slurred, my body – uncontrollable, my head was spinning, he could have taken me anywhere, done anything to me. A very frightening realisation in hindsight.
He helped me up, put me in a taxi, rode with me to my flat, walked me to my door, helped me find my keys, and that was it. This was a boy who consciously chose to help, when so many others walked past. I still don’t know who he is, I have absolutely no recollection of his face, and I never got the chance to say thank you. Thank you for being proactive. Thank you for acknowledging I was in potential danger. Thank you for realising I was scared. Thank you for your concern of my wellbeing. Thank you for taking it upon yourself to make sure I was safe. Thank you for being raised with morals. Thank you for being a good human. Thank you a million times over.
I count my lucky stars that my story is nothing like Sarah’s or countless other versions that end in tragedy. Too many times we’ve heard disconcerting excuses and it has to stop. Being ‘drunk’ is not an excuse, wearing ‘next to nothing’ is not an excuse, having ‘rough sex’ is not an excuse, and we are not ‘asking for it’. We are just trying to get through each day unharmed and alive.
A vigil is being held in the name of Sarah Everard and all women who feel unsafe, go missing from the streets or face violence daily. The ‘Reclaim These Streets‘ vigil will take place today at 6pm in the centre of Clapham Common with strict Covid-19 safety guidelines in place.