I am a woman raising boys and this comes with a lot of responsibility to ensure that they grow into good men. What I mean by that is that they believe in equality and actively go out of their way to ensure that girls and women feel safe in this world.
We have had a case of abduction and murder in the UK of Sarah Everard walking home at 9pm. As always this brought out a lot of feelings and many people saying she shouldn’t have been walking home alone – victim-blaming isn’t acceptable, it shifts perceived responsibility away from male perpetrators of assault. It resonated with a lot of woman and girls and reminded me of a recent conversation I had with Maxi’s girlfriend about how scared she was recently walking her dog on an evening.
It also started a conversation with the boys and my husband at the dinner table about what they could actively do to make woman and girls feel safe and secure. We live in a quiet location now but have also lived in a city, so have experienced this feeling in both places.
Practical ways Boys and Men can make women feel safe in the dark
I think it is important that we start educating our boys and include them in this as my teens are as tall and as imposing as a man and also it then becomes second nature to them. We had our conversation at the dinner table and there was a lot of humour too, such as walking with Alvin (who is a fluffy small white dog) makes them less intimidating than they would be on their own.
Listen – Listen to the women in your life, your mums, sisters, friends and girlfriend. Ask they thoughts and ack on them.
Give Space – Cross the road to avoid walking or running directly behind a woman or girl. When we are talking about giving space, make sure you give them the safe space, so do not expect them to cross over, give them the side of the pavement with the light. When you do pass accelerate ahead. Also if you are wearing a hoodie, take it down. This also applies to lifts in car parks. Wait and get the next lift.
Don’t Stare – being stared at is intimidating and unsettling. Taking out your phone and focusing on something else can go a long way to showing you’re not a threat.
Keep your Comments to Yourself – Don’t try and strike up conversations with girls or women when they are walking or on public transport and if the carriage or bus is empty, move to another location or sit a fair distance apart.
Call out any Harassment – Talk to other boys and men about it, as many are oblivious. If you witness even low-key harassment, it isn’t acceptable, so step in. Don’t be a passive bystander. Put yourself between a woman and her harasser to block their line of sight. Ask her if she is OK, and back up anyone else who is intervening.
Walk your Friends Home – But don’t think you are doing them a favour or being a white knight and protecting them. They don’t need male protection. What they need is that men act responsibly.
Keep the conversation going by sharing these tips, and helping girls and women feel safer at night. I have just read a post by Sally at Who’s the Mummy about her take on this and found myself nodding. I am a big believer in behaviour breeds behaviour and also feel there is a bigger conversation to be had about why this is happening and how we can educate our boys more on the value of women and girls and will be circling back to it, especially the porn issue.
This is a such a good post Jen and I’m so glad your boys have realised that they could help women feel safer.