We want to be safe

Loura Al Anezi is a Politics (BA) student. She is from Kuwait, and she reports the topics of poverty, mobility, security and conflict. Her hobbies include reading books and painting.

We still call our loved ones before we leave, as Sarah Evelard did. We walk in crowded areas, especially in open spaces like Sabina Nessa did. Yet, they are both killed. No matter what we do, women are unsafe. The lack of change after these deaths are worrying as women remain vulnerable to violence and harassment. Although I will refer to women’s violence and harassment in this article, we should, of course, also consider and keep in mind that harassment affects all genders.

Sarah Everland’s death played a considerable role regarding the start of raising awareness of violence against women. Sarah Everard was abducted, killed, and raped by a man who she trusted since he was a policeman. Multiple people witnessed her being taken away by an individual who later committed the offences and ended her life. Just after six months, Sabina Nessa was murdered in broad daylight.; she was a primary school teacher and was walking around a busy park and found dead as a result of a gruesome murder. Her trip was a five-minute walk only from home, and understandably, her family remained shocked by her sudden death.

The fear women experience due to ineffective and vague advice such as avoiding night-time or resisting the police is exceptionally harmful and counterproductive, as seen in the above instances. The psychological harm that this could bring about include the fear of being the next victim of harassment or violence. Having previous experiences surrounding harassment and violence. These could involve walking outside and leaving the house. That would also contribute to the lack of trusting men who have authority such as the police force whose job is to provide safety especially due to Sarah Everard’s case.

The lack of open conversations about consent and harassment is one of the reasons that harassment remains common. It is essential to include everyone in the conversation to be part of the change in this awareness. Most significantly, people of all genders may have difficulty and lack space to talk about harassment and violence towards women. 

It would be more effective to provide a better education surrounding consent and harassment. Education would curb behaviours of violence and harassment as we currently lack this perspective would be necessary to have this change; a more inclusive educational system or practice would include talks about the psychological effects of harassment. That includes the mental health struggles and the social stigma of harassment. The second important point is to raise awareness that harassment comes from various forms other than physical harassment. These topics would raise awareness and education around us. It will also help them recognise if they or someone they know had undergone harassment; in the case of the latter, it is curical that they signpost them to the relevant services available.

Education would also help combat the social stigma of harassment as it is difficult for the person who has undergone through harassment and is learning how cope with the experience. There may be fear about how people would react about their experiences of harassment as it is as difficult experience to share- with education there would be a better guideline about how to support people who have undergone through harassment

The setting would be educational spaces, and the talks would include topics surrounding consent and the importance of asking. Slowly, the topics will develop to more complex and specific topics such as street harassment. 

Other than implementing educational events there are other viable solutions if someone is going through harassment. According to RAINN, there are three different strategies if you are harassed. The first one is to go somewhere safe such as a local store or apart building lobby so the harasser would be discouraged from following you. The second strategy is if the street harassment occurs outside of a business or on public transportation, you can report the behavior. If the street harassment happened outside a business or on public transportation, you can report the behavior. Some forms of street harassment, such as groping, flashing, and following, can be reported to law enforcement. The third strategy is to do the best for you and to trust your judgement since reporting may be risky and mentally draining.

There have also been new instances of safety keychains that have become a more popular choice for women. The keychains include different items such as an alarm and flashlight depending on the customer’s preference. Online businesses such as Fearless Keychains have increased in popularity due to Tiktok and the store usually would quickly sell-out; in the United Kingdom, pepper spray is illegal. This resulted in alternatives such as the criminal identical spray that would help identify the harasser as it would have visible on clothes and face. The new market identifies the fears of male violence and the sense of urgency women have to protect themselves.

Implementing these suggested changes starts from having open conversations about consent and harassment would provide a safe space for to discuss experiences. It would also be the first step in helping combat male violence and harassment. These solutions would also protect women and provide a safe space for everyone regardless of gender, as solutions such as avoiding the dark and changing what you wear contribute to the lack of change that do not address the root of the problem at all, and consequently means little to no change.

If you would like to learn more about these topics and access resources about topics of sexual assault, violence, and harassment, refer to the society It Happens Here KCL. Instagram: (@ithappensherekcl) They provide helpful resources and information about these topics.

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