Are Women Safe Walking Alone At Night?
They SHOULD Feel Safe, But Too Many Don't
Sarah Everard, a woman who was walking alone at night in London, UK, was found murdered, allegedly at the hands of a police officer. It's a gruesome and disturbing case that has a whole lot of people rightly upset, and has reignited a discussion about the safety of women in our societies.
What the Sarah Everard murder shows, to some, is that women are not safe in the streets. And this is so unfortunate view. It would definitely be nice if every woman felt as though they could walk the streets on their own without fear. As a society, in general, the goal should most definitely be to make this possible.
I find it very difficult to write essays like this one, however. Straight up, I must tell you that I am a man. I do not know what it is like to be a woman. My goal in writing this is not to undermine how any woman feels. But, given some of the rhetoric that surrounds these issues, my back gets up. I get defensive. Often I feel that with conversations revolving around the safety of women, it can stray into misandry really quickly. Too often I feel personally attacked and that just because I am a male I'm seen as dangerous. No, that isn't a good feeling at all. Not at all.
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I DO want to say "not all men" while some are saying "ALL men". I get why they say it, partly. Women are saying that it might not be all men, but all men are seen as a potential threat. That saddens me greatly. And hurts. And fills me with confusion and frustration, on a number of levels. I personally don't know any males who would do to anyone what happened to Sarah Everard. I'm thankful for that. So, why are we all seen as potential threats?
I won't pretend that I or the men I am talking about are perfect. Just that we aren't about to attack a woman walking alone at night. And, it makes me angry that there are men out there who would attack a woman in that way. Of course it is unacceptable. And, it appears to give all of us men a bad name.
Now, I do understand that saying these things does little to alleviate general fears that some women have. And that does bother me, on a personal and general level. The idea that men are seen as inherently dangerous to women saddens me. And, I want to get defensive and say that even men face violence and harassment (although maybe not sexual) if walking alone at night.
On this note, I should stress that we are not talking about all women, either. There is a wide range of views among women on how safe they feel they are. And, there appears to be a disconnect when it comes to statistics about how people feel and what is actually happening in the streets.
An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report states that within member countries, which includes the US, UK and Canada, 62 percent of women do feel safe walking alone at night. That number is definitely higher for men, at 79 percent. But, what this number says is that despite many women saying they see every man as a threat and feel that they can't walk alone at night, the majority of women don't seem to agree.
Now, some will get angry at this being pointed out. They will see this as downplaying the important issue of safety for women. Fair enough. But, to me, this isn't a negative thing to say. This is positive. Very positive. It means that things aren't as bad as they may seem. It means that we are on the right track. It's unfortunate that there are still a large number of women who don't feel safe. That does need to change. But, it's not as far gone as some see it.
It should also be noted that men, in Canada anyway, who experience violence are more likely to encounter it in a public place than women (29 percent vs 13 percent). Additionally, women tend to face more violence from people they know, while men experience it from strangers. While women are victims of domestic violence at a rate of roughly 80 percent, men are victims of violence by strangers by 80 percent. The streets appear to be less safe for men than women, and maybe we need to talk about that more.
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Now, this may sound like I'm trying to turn this into a competition. It isn't and shouldn't be. But, again, when it comes to women, I feel that these numbers are a GOOD thing, at least in terms of the ability to walk alone at night. Very good. And it shows that, again, we are heading in the right direction, at least in terms of women being safe walking alone in public. That said, the fact that women are facing so much domestic abuse is horrible and is most definitely something that desperately needs to change. Sigh.
So, despite evidence, why do a larger percentage of women than men feel unsafe walking alone at night? I have a theory that I can't prove, but none the less is worth considering. Men tend to be more prone to taking risks than women. So, even if dangers are present and possibly more so for men, this risk taking means they are less likely to fear going out alone at night than women. Maybe?
Who knows if I am right on that. But, there does seem to be a disconnect between the stats and facts and the emotions and feelings on this subject. The hope I have here is that women can look at these facts and at least start to feel a bit better, can relax a bit more about the dangers that they face and hopefully begin to feel more comfortable going out at night.
Now, this is NOT to say that there aren't dangers. There are. Things are far from perfect or where it would be nice to have them. We have to keep working to make it better. Women and men should be able to walk alone at night without facing violence and harassment. Many women have fears, and that isn't pleasant. It's not a good feeling to have these fears. Let's do what we can to alleviate those fears, and to make the streets safe.