*trigger warning: this article contains discussions of harassment and sexual assault*
The outpouring of pain from women online this past week has been overwhelming to say the least. Following the disappearance of Sarah Everard, a woman who was just trying to walk home, women across the UK and beyond came together to discuss their stories of harassment at the hands of men.
But these stories were not isolated cases. A study found that 97% of women have faced harassment of some kind in their life. What was perhaps most shocking of all was the fact that the only people shocked by this statistic were men. In the same week as International Women’s Day, we were brutally reminded that every single one of us has been followed, groped, catcalled or worse. This is a topic normally reduced to quiet conversations with friends but the grief for Sarah has sparked a much-needed discussion about the safety of women in our country.
We walk with keys between our fingers, no headphones in, pretending to call a friend or actually calling them. We tuck our hair into hats so it can’t be pulled, we wear chunky rings, we don’t go out in the dark unless absolutely necessary. We are held hostage by fear at all times but blamed by society when we can’t prevent the horror. Harassment is never okay and this is not women’s burden to bear.
No, not all men harass women but all women have been harassed. So if you’re a man reading this I implore you to ask yourself “am I doing enough?” I can almost guarantee the answer is no.
This is not an article for men though, you take up enough of our mental space. This is for women who have faced harassment to tell their story. Together we are strong and speaking out, if nothing else, can be cathartic. I hope this article helps you find some solitary.
Rest in Peace, Sarah.