As a daughter and a mother to sons, this article is difficult to write. I do not wish to label all men as threats to women. However, it goes without saying that the freedom afforded to my sons is not extended to my daughters. At fourteen and sixteen, they have both already been exposed to inappropriate sexualised behaviour, as I had before them and my mother before me. Recent research suggests as many as 97% of women have experienced inappropriate sexual interaction. This can happen anytime anywhere. Pubs and clubs come with their pitfalls. As women, there is an unwritten code that if we feel a man is zoning in on a friend, we work together as a collective to keep that person out of their reach. Like a carefully orchestrated dance routine where the intended victim becomes encased inside our circle. Unfortunately, this is not restricted to 18+ venues, the threat stretches far and wide. It can occur on buses, in parks, classrooms, and homes. This problem is not a problem for women but females, regardless of age. Often a younger girl is a more desired victim. Hence why I will not allow my daughters to walk home alone after dark. A school uniform is almost like a red flag to some men. I use the term men loosely. These are not men but sex pests and perverts disguised as men. People who feel that young girls are there to be intimidated for their pleasure. This is not a new problem, it is age-old and I do not know how to fix it. Perhaps talking about it is the answer. Making every son, father, nephew, or husband aware that their female relatives are intimidated and scared in certain situations, this is not a fear built on fairy tales but one brought on by experience. Their mother, sister, daughter, and wife have been exposed and subjected to disturbing behaviour. If these women are lucky it may have just been an inappropriate comment, the lesser of the potential evils. But others are not so lucky those such as Sarah Everard. A woman like many before her who took the journey home with fingers crossed hoping today was not the day. As females, we have a different set of rules which are dictated to us by the monsters and the perverts. Even the most headstrong and competent woman will feel fear when their personal space is intruded upon. This does not make her any less competent. It means that she has most likely learned from a previous experience. Women are not inherently afraid of men; it is a learned behaviour developed from exposure to abuse. As a society, it’s time to talk, to discuss the problem. Let the world know that we are survivors. Teach our children that the best way to stop a problem is to break the cycle. It’s not okay to intimidate anyone. It is not okay to touch anyone without their permission. It is not okay to hurt or harm anyone. From the building sites to the classrooms, the wolf whistles to the revenge porn. The indecent exposer or groping, the rape and the murder. What if that was your daughter, mother or wife? The chances are it has been. 97% is a huge number, a true pandemic. The time for change is now.
By Julie Sanford
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