Reclaim these Streets

Written by on November 19, 2021

The Bold Mum's Blogspot

** NB – before you read this blog, I would like to point out that I am fully aware that crime doesn’t just affect women, but also men; and men can also be traumatised by criminal acts against them.  Furthermore, many men are decent, respectful individuals who would not hurt anyone, however they identify.  However, that by no means detracts from the points I make in my blog.  Thank you **

The Bold Mum’s Blogspot

#ReclaimTheseStreets 

“Streets should be safe for women regardless of what we wear, where we walk or what time of day or night it is. It’s wrong that the response to violence against women requires women to behave differently so Reclaim These Streets speaks up on street harassment of women and girls, educates boys and men to take responsibility for the problem of violence against women and girls, and works to challenge misogyny in the way our laws are written and enforced.” (https://reclaimthesestreets.com/)

I am angry and I am frustrated!

Like many thousands of women across the UK!

The horrific murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021 by a (now convicted!) serving police officer triggered an acute response to a chronic problem predominantly in the female population.  

Angry female voices were heard loud and clear against the backdrop of a vile criminal act; candlelit vigils sprang up countrywide, captioned with variations of the tagline – ‘she was just walking home.’ #shewasjustwalkinghome.

AND, with the life-sentencing of the perpetrator, Wayne Couzens, on October 6th, the voices are just getting louder!

On 2nd October an article began to circulate evidencing the extent of the violence against women where the perpetrator was a male.  It stated that since ‘Sarah Everard was ‘abducted, raped, [and] murdered…at least 81 other UK women have been killed in circumstances where the suspect is a man.’ (1)

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  

As most women know only too well, barely a week goes by when we don’t hear about an assault, a rape or some sort of violent attack against a female by a male.  Indeed, in one violent weekend between 17th and 19th September, 3 adult women and 3 children (two of them female) were murdered by men. 

These stories are shocking!  The apparent culture of violence against women is shocking!  And, no doubt, the unreported stories and numbers would also be shocking.

 

I am now 51 years old.  I grew up in the city of Cardiff during the 70s and 80s, acutely aware, being a female, of maintaining my personal safety; reminded by caring parents not to walk alone after dark; hurrying past groups of males hoping I didn’t draw attention to myself; surrounded by tall, protective brothers/father who were ready to step in and defend their vulnerable female sibling/daughter if required.  I grew up knowing that as a female I needed to take precautions to maintain my safety in a world where attacks on women were commonplace.  I understood that if I didn’t take these necessary precautions, then ‘I was just asking for trouble,’ and ‘I only had myself to blame.’

I am just one woman, unremarkable and living an unremarkable life with an unremarkable family.  I grew up in a loving home in an ordinary semi-detached house, on an ordinary housing estate replicated in many such estates nationwide.  

Yet, despite my ordinariness, despite my intrinsic safety precautions and self-awareness, I have found myself the subject of three blatant attacks by males in my life so far.  Statistically – because everyone likes statistics – that’s an average of one every 17 years of my life to date!  Only one of them was ever reported to the police.

And the scary thing is, the majority of ‘ordinary’ women would probably have similar stories to tell if asked.

As a child of 6, in broad daylight while outside playing with friends I was lured by a young adult male into some woods where he proceeded to assault me against my will.  Ironically, I consider myself one of the lucky ones; I bit his tongue and managed to run away.  I didn’t tell my parents for ten years because I believed it was my fault; I had been warned against strangers and yet in a moment of naivety I followed this man.  HOWEVER, in adulthood, with the vision of hindsight, I now understand it was NOT my fault, and I was NOT lucky.  In that moment I had become a statistic representing the culture of violence against females.

As a child of 12 along with my mother and grandmother, I became trapped in my grandmother’s house which was under attack from the drug-fuelled rage of a neighbour; a male.  How did this happen?  My mum had simply asked the neighbour if he would turn his music down; my grandmother was unwell and the loud music was an ongoing issue.  In retaliation the man repeatedly pushed his fist through small square panes of glass on the front door while simultaneously making violent threats and pouring blood from the lacerations on his wrists.  I can still feel that terror; I honestly thought we were going to die.  We were on this occasion saved by the timely arrival of the police who knew the neighbour well.

What was the outcome of this event?  Nothing.  The male was not charged by my grandmother; she was elderly and feared repercussions.  Instead, she was taken from her home of thirty years and rehoused away from danger.  As for myself, nobody mentioned this incident due to the fear and anxiety it triggered in me…and we quite simply moved on.  

However, I had developed a lifelong fear of men and of the dark.

The third incident currently has particular prominence in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder, probably because the male was in a position of professional trust and responsibility; an osteopath.

I visited this man for help, for pain relief, for support with an ongoing back issue.  Instead, he behaved dishonourably, abusing my vulnerability and my trust in his position.  Having removed my shirt and lying on his couch, this osteopath, in a moment in which he allegedly needed to manipulate my back, rubbed his very obvious erection deliberately against my thigh.  I was so shocked and embarrassed I got dressed and scurried away, wondering if I had done or said something to make him think that I wanted his attention in this way.

Once again nothing ever came of this incident.  It never even crossed my mind at the time that this incident was even worthy of police time.  I quite simply hadn’t taken enough personal responsibility for my own safety…or so I thought!

Since writing this blog I have been asked if I wouldn’t rather keep this personal information to myself, the suggestion being that I am oversharing.

My response?  

Too many women have kept such misogynistic AND ILLEGAL actions to themselves; have been too ashamed or embarrassed to admit that they somehow enabled this to happen, with no thought that it was not actually their fault!  The silence and inaction that has shrouded such activity has left the extent of the violence by men against women unreported, the actual figures inaccurate, and has possibly contributed to the likes of Wayne Couzens believing that they could commit such terrible, criminal acts without retribution or justice.

The angry female voices are now crying ‘no more,’ and we mean it!

Wayne Couzens is behind bars for life!  That is right and just for the enormity of his actions.

Now we need to start exploring why it was able to happen in the first place!

References

  1. The 81 women killed in 28 weeks | Femicide | The Guardian
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