Violence against women is one of few crimes that defy age, geography, or race. Some men across the globe share a disregard for the livelihood of women. They say all life is sacred, but this is not true for women. At any given point, the lives of women can be taken by anything from a bitter ex-boyfriend to a violent husband or a stranger who simply couldn’t handle rejection. The audacious decision to go on a date or leave the house can too often seal our fate.

Safety Precautions

89 per cent of women in Great Britain reported feeling ‘very unsafe or fairly unsafe’ walking on their own after dark, in parks, and in open spaces as a result of public harassment. 

Recent media attention surrounding the murder of 18-year-old Lily Sullivan, who was strangled to death last December for rejecting a man’s sexual advances, describes the overplayed tale of women who pay the ultimate price for saying no. The murder of Sarah Everard earlier that year and the troubling details surrounding her perpetrator demonstrated that even men employed to protect us sometimes cannot be trusted. 

‘But times are changing’

Despite evolving attitudes, steps to increase awareness in schools about coercive control, and more efficient police training in handling domestic and sexual violence cases is simply not good enough. Nor does it have an immediate effect on the safety of women in their day-to-day lives. The lessons taught today may protect women of the future but what about the existing women, those forced to navigate this current climate.

Silence is Violence 

A survey conducted by the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey between February to March 2022 reported that:

  •  Women aged 16 to 34 years felt the most unsafe of any age and sex group using public transport alone after dark.
  • 38 per cent of women between 16 and 34 experienced catcalling, whistles, unwanted sexual comments, or jokes from a stranger.

Experiences of harassment by place:

92 per cent of surveyed females experienced harassment in a park or open space.

63 per cent of surveyed females experienced harassment when on a quiet street close to home.

60 per cent of surveyed females experienced harassment when using public transport on their own.

29 per cent of women reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment in the workplace or work-related settings. 

The data portrays the harsh reality for too many of us. Women frequently do not have a safe place in public and for many, the home is one of the most dangerous. While domestic violence is harder to address, there are practical ways to reinstall confidence in women outside of the home. 

Not a Solution but a Deterrent 

Currently, the government prohibits the carrying of lethal or non-lethal self-defence weapons in light of rising violence involving sharp weapons and firearms, it is easy to see why. However, harsh sentencing laws against non-lethal self-defence weapons mean women are faced with two dire choices: carry a weapon and break the law or risk being left defenceless to attackers. 

If the government were to legalize non-lethal self-defence weapons such as pepper spray, tactical defence rings and stun guns, to name a few, women might be better equipped to resist attacks. The legalization of these weapons could also potentially reduce initial instances of harassment and sexual assault in public, acting as a deterrent. After all, men often prey on women because the risk of retaliation is low.

Women are viewed as ‘easy’ targets, but if changes in social attitudes were reinforced by legal changes women in the UK might see a reduction in harassment and violence in the public sphere.

 ‘Pepper spray first, ask questions later’

Changing the narrative

Although fictional, the hit US television show ‘My Favourite Murder’ conveys an important message for all women — ‘F*** Politeness’ because the truth is, it won’t save us. 

Women are socialised to be weak and pay the price for this by becoming ‘objects of desire or rage.‘ In other words, victims to the jealousy or uncontrollable sexual desires of their perpetrators. In order to subvert this statistic, it is important to deconstruct the need to be ‘nice’ to men. This incessant requirement will continue to victimise and kill women and girls. 

In a society that often brands women as ‘over-emotional’ and ‘irrational,’ it is easy to downplay our fears. No one wants to be seen as ‘crazy’ for overreacting. However, leaving a persistent date fending off pepper spray is better than meeting your maker.

The Next Step

Those in government need to prioritize the safety of women. It is not enough for a small percentage of women and girls to shoulder responsibility for change. In 2022, to see real systemic change, we need accountability from the top, starting with the male powers in our country.

The decision made last March to dismiss petitions for the legalisation of non-lethal self-defence weapons was premature and should be addressed by Liz Truss.

In a society where existing is dangerous for women and even the police force partakes in our victimization, I ask, why aren’t more people angry?

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