Teach Boys How To Behave, Not The Girls How To Protect Themselves
*TRIGGER WARNING: SEXUAL ASSAULT AND HARASSMENT*
We all could have been Sarah Everard. She did not wear revealing clothes or was walking late at night from a party intoxicated. She was not asking for it. Sarah Everard was walking home from a friend’s house wearing colourful athletic clothes on a Wednesday night.
We all could have been her. Sarah’s case refutes all those misogynistic comments women get when they are sexually assaulted or harassed. It is one of those rare moments when we, women, can share our experiences and tell men: we are not the problem.
According to a survey conducted by the UN, 97% of women aged 18-24 in the UK have experienced sexual harassment. Furthermore, 80% of women of all ages have said they’ve been assaulted in public places.
So, if the majority of women have been sexually assaulted or harassed, maybe it is time to open our eyes and finally do something about it? Instead of saying “boys will be boys” and telling women how they are asking “for it”, let’s hold guilty people accountable and stop shaming the victims.
I am 22 years old, and I cannot count anymore how many times I was sexually harassed and assaulted. The first incident happened when I was 14 years old, and I was with a group of “friends”. I was not asking for it then.
I was 19 years old when I was standing in a crowded bar waiting to order a drink. I was wearing jeans and a jumper. Nothing revealing or vulgar, as some would say. I was still being groped by a strange man behind me. I was not asking for it. I was asking him to stop. But he did not.
I was 20 years old when I was walking home from a corner shop when it was dark. I looked over my shoulder and I saw a man, but I could not see his face. He kept walking a few steps behind me. I was shaking from fear. I started walking faster, he did as well. I ran to my door and got in as quickly as possible. My then-boyfriend was standing in the kitchen, and he could see how pale and terrified I was. He told me, “don’t act like a victim, he was probably just walking home”.
And maybe he was. Maybe that man was nothing, but a person walking home. But the fear that grew inside as I could feel him getting closer and closer to me, made me rethink my actions about why I couldn’t get milk in the morning.
Such incidents became more and more recurrent since my social life became more public. First, it was maybe every couple of months, then every couple of weeks, and now it’s every other day. A nasty comment, being touched in private places, being followed home. All these things became a daily fear I face every day I leave the house.
I have set up emergency dials, I have asked my friends to fake call me pretending there is an emergency, I looked over my shoulder and ran, I held my keys between my knuckles, I took a different route home, so they wouldn’t know where I live.
We need to stop teaching girls that if a boy pulls your hair or says something rude, it means he likes you. We need to stop teaching girls how to act, look and speak in public places, but instead teach boys how to behave with respect towards others.
We all could have been Sarah Everard on a Wednesday night walking home.