I shouldn’t have to be afraid because of my gender

We need to teach others to be respectful; women shouldn’t have to live in precaution

On March 3, Sarah Everard a 33 year old marketing executive, visited a friend’s home in Clapham, England. She reportedly left her friends home at 9 p.m. to walk 2.5 miles back to her own home in Kent.

The next morning her boyfriend called the police after not hearing from her to see if she got home alright, as they had talked on the phone the previous night as she walked home. He filed a missing persons report and a search party was conducted.

A week later, on March 10, Everard’s body was found in the woodlands of Kent in a builder’s bag. Officials assume she was kidnapped then murdered by a policeman.

Since the revelation of her death and the details that followed, there has been a worldwide response that women shouldn’t have to be afraid to walk home or simply be outside, in the daylight or at night. Frankly, I agree.

As a woman I have been told I need to protect myself when I am alone, and hence have adopted a few methods I’m sure every female can relate to. I carry pepper spray with me at all times, I try to call a friend while walking somewhere or pretend I am on a call with someone and wear shoes that will allow me to be agile when needed.

There are even times when I have run through escape routes or scenarios of how to get out of a situation when I am nervous out in public.

I shouldn’t have to make escape routes in my head; I shouldn’t have to be armed and ready to defend myself; I shouldn’t have to be nervous walking back to my dorm in the dark after a night out.

Just last Friday, I was walking across campus from an RSO event at 10 p.m. It was dark, barely any of the light posts were lit and the university buildings were closed. As I walked, I kept my pepper spray in my hand, looking in every direction around me, thinking of ways someone might sneak up on me and how I could get away.

Granted I was on university property, and not that far away from where I was staying, but still it ran through my mind as I was the only one walking around. I shouldn’t have been nervous, but to be honest, part of me was.

This isn’t the first time I’ve thought about my safety while going anywhere, as I’m sure many other women have. That’s why I see so many of us carry pepper spray with us and sometimes a small weapon.

That’s why I see my female friends’ lanyards, all with some sort of defense weapon attached.

As women we have been raised in a society to be cautious and afraid when we are by ourselves because we could easily be attacked. That it is our duty to stay vigilant, wear bright colors, talk to someone on the phone (or pretend to) as we walk in the dark, but Everard did all of those things.

She walked home in a bright blue coat, called her boyfriend and even walked down very well lit streets. Yet, the young woman is gone.

It’s beginning to make us think, is it really just the woman’s responsibility to protect herself? From my viewpoint it should have never just been the woman’s responsibility.

Growing up in the 21st century, as a young woman, I have been told to always be ready to protect myself or get out of a situation when need be. Why has that become our new normal? Why do we continue to teach women and young girls that is how we should be living? Why don’t we teach young people to be different?

I believe in this day and age, if we are going to make the situation better, if we are going to help women feel more safe and think less of ways they can defend themselves, it all begins with teaching. Teaching people how to properly respect each other.

Instead of teaching people to be a dominator, someone who uses their strength, we should be teaching them how to be respectful, that showing kindness and not being forceful isn’t weak, instead it’s a sign of equality.

I don’t want to continue to feel nervous when walking anywhere, whether it be during the day or night, nor when walking into new situations. I shouldn’t have to feel that way, or always come up with a plan ready to escape at a moment’s notice.

I don’t want to continue feeling that I have to leave some place early to get home or somewhere safe during the daytime because of the thought that someone might take advantage of me just because I am a woman.

I don’t want to continue to have my anxiety high as I go to different places. I am a person who shouldn’t always be looking behind their shoulder. I hope that we all learn from this, that it’s not a good thing to always be nervous when out in public alone and it is something we need to do better to create safer environments.