The last week has taught us that women in the UK are still in danger

Why in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder, men must be the ones to instigate change

Words by Niamh Cullen

I’ve been struggling to continue as normal today, with everything going on in the news. I can’t get my head around the fact that women are being told not to go out alone after dark, for their own safety. Girls shouldn’t have to carry keys between their knuckles if we’re walking in the dark. We shouldn’t have to double check that no one’s in the back of our cars before we get in and we shouldn’t be forbidden to go out alone when it isn’t light. I’m really angry.

It’s absurd that right now, as a woman my two options are to continue to follow the precaution of not leaving my house alone after dark, or to put my life at risk. Today, that gives me a window of 11 hours to leave my house. I spend nearly nine hours of those 11 in work. The shortest day, 7 hours 49 minutes.

97 per cent of young women in the UK have been sexually harassed. I’m mad because I wasn’t surprised at all. I’m mad because Piers Morgan is getting more media attention than this study. I’m mad because nothing is being done.

It isn’t women who are causing this problem, but the weight of it has been left very much on our shoulders. Women can’t solve a problem that men are responsible for. Boys, we need more from you. Call out your friends when they make sexist comments — from girls belonging in the kitchen to blurred lines in the bedroom — call them out. If you see a woman in a potentially uncomfortable or dangerous situation, do something about it. Really have a think if you could be making a woman uncomfortable, even if you hadn’t ever thought it mattered that you were walking close behind her at night.

And I know it isn’t all men. No woman is trying to say it is. But if 97 per cent of young women have been sexually harassed, if every girl I know has experienced some form of sexual harassment or abuse, the chances are it’s quite a lot of men, and the chances are you know a few of them.

The awful thing is as a white, cisgender, straight woman, I’m in an extremely privileged position. The colour of my skin, along with my sexuality, my physical health and my post code afford me safeties that other women do not have. Based on how I feel today, I can’t begin to imagine what others must be feeling. 

So to all boys, do better. If you don’t know how, ask. And to every woman out there, it’s okay if you’re feeling sad or frustrated or tired or angry or scared. You’re not alone in that.

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