People have been sharing their advice for how men can make women feel safer while walking home alone, following the disappearance of Sarah Everard.
The 33-year-old marking executive was last seen after leaving a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, at around 9pm on Wednesday 3 March, to walk home to Brixton, which is around 50 minutes by foot.
A serving Metropolitan police officer has since been arrested on suspicion of her murder, with a woman also arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender.
While investigations are still ongoing, it has been revealed that human remains have been found in Kent.
Following news of Everard's disappearance, social media lit up with women sharing their experiences of having felt unsafe walking home alone.
Others shared examples of the measures they had taken in order to try to feel safer, which include everything from holding their keys in between their fingers, to taking a lengthy detour, changing into trainers in case they need to run and avoiding poorly lit areas, such as parks, altogether.
But should the onus fall on women to change their routines and behaviour in order to feel safer?
Andrea Simon, director of End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), tells Yahoo UK that "like with all acts of violence against women, we need solutions that target the behaviour of perpetrators, not those which focus on the actions of women who are attacked."
"It is absolutely not fair to put the onus onto women rather than men, to protect themselves. We have been doing this for years already and yet, women are still subject to harassment and violence every single day, all around the world," she tells Yahoo UK.
Alongside an overhaul of the legal system's approach to violence against women, she believes "we need to be educating boys and men on how to be better allies, to have more respect for women, and for themselves. We need more empathy and less dog-whistling over 'woke culture'".
Simon adds: "Men are very much part of the solution and can be an ally in this conversation.
"They can call out problematic behaviour when they see it, they can hold their friends and family to account if they act in ways that make women feel uncomfortable."
Everard's disappearance sparked conversation on social media about how men can help women to feel safer in public places, particularly at night time.
I live less than five minutes from where Sarah Everard went missing. Everyone is on high alert. Aside from giving as much space as possible on quieter streets and keeping face visible, is there anything else men can reasonably do to reduce the anxiety/spook factor?
— Stuart Edwards (@StuartEdwards) March 9, 2021
One man, who lives near to where Everard disappeared, asked Twitter what he and other men could do to make women feel more comfortable on the streets.
"Aside from giving as much space as possible on quieter streets and keeping face visible, is there anything else men can reasonably do to reduce the anxiety/spook factor?" he wrote.
The tweet quickly went viral and while some pointed out that the behaviour of a minority of males shouldn't tarnish all men, it also prompted an outpouring of tips on how men could make simple adaptions to their behaviour to help make women feel more comfortable.
Watch: PM 'shocked and deeply saddened' as human remains are found in the search for Sarah Everard
Tips flooded in from women responding to Edwards' tweet, with advice including not walking too closely behind a woman, crossing to the other side of the road if they need to overtake and making sure their face is visible.
What a lovely kind tweet. Thanks. Basically never ever walk closely behind a woman. Cross the street to avoid this if necessary. I was attacked from behind once and even tho it was decades ago I still get freaked out if anyone walks too closely behind me. Thank you.
— 🍒LauraMarcus💙 (@MissLauraMarcus) March 10, 2021
This is an excellent question and I wish more men would ask it. Cross the street to avoid walking behind a woman. Give all women space. Never run close to them when jogging, esp in the dark - I'm endlessly astonished at how many men do this. Offer to walk female friends home.
— Fiona Sturges (@FionaSturges) March 10, 2021
If a woman is walking towards you, let her stay in her path and get out of her way rather than making her move. I consciously walk in the safest part of the path with access to light/exits and so many times a man has forced me to walk between him and a wall.
— Julie Cohen (@julie_cohen) March 10, 2021
Other men also asked what they could do to help women feel more comfortable when walking home alone and were also inundated with responses.
A non-exhaustive list...
- call out misogyny
- stop catcalling
- take no for an answer
- give us as much space as you would your male counterparts
- don’t touch us when we haven’t asked you to
- don’t misinterpret politeness
- listen and believe your female friends (1/2)
— Eleanor Pollard 🦒 (@eleanorgrace22) March 10, 2021
- teach your family/friends to respect women
- lose the ‘boys will be boys’ narrative
- stop victim blaming (she was asking for it etc)
- read ‘Women don’t owe you pretty’ by Florence Given!
— Eleanor Pollard 🦒 (@eleanorgrace22) March 10, 2021
I've had to go running with my sister a few times now so she feels safer, that's madness and made me really aware of the problem. When approaching my house driving I'll often drive around the block to avoid stopping if a lone female is walking past. Record so far is 3 block laps!
— Gavin Smith (@safetygav) March 10, 2021
It's really nice of you to ask - thank you. From my experience, runners who pass by from behind always scare the hell out of me. Also, just the other day a man innocently crossed the road in a hurry, but for a brief moment it genuinely looked like he was running right at me.
— Kate (@katesarre) March 9, 2021
I have seen some v kind men asking what they can do to help women feel safe in light of the Sarah Everard case. First of all, thank you. Recognising that you have a part to play in this is really important, but also heartening. 1/
— Siobhan Turner #fbpe (@SiobhanTurner23) March 10, 2021
Solely asking men to be more considerate of their behaviour isn't going to solve the problem, particularly as it was recently revealed that 97% of women aged 18-24 said they had been sexually harassed, while 80% of women of all ages said they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces.
"Women already live with fear," says Benis. "Every single woman I know has a story of sexual harassment. So what has happened to Sarah Everard resonates because it's the worst scenario that plays through all our heads. Every woman can see themself here - she just wanted to get home safely."
In an ideal world neither women, nor men would have to alter their behaviour in order for women to feel more comfortable walking home, but as we don't live in an ideal world we need to work on what can be done to improve safety measures for all.
Benis believes the focus needs to be on creating public spaces that are accessible and safe for everyone, no matter the time of day or night.
"We need an overhaul of the legal system that allows perpetrators of gender-based violence to continue to get away with committing acts against women and girls with little to no consequence," she explains.
While Benis says people recognise it isn't "all men", the issue is that women don't know which men are a threat.
"Men need to take more responsibility," she continues. "It's not enough to just cross the road at night to make sure that a woman feels comfortable. They need to intervene and call out their peers and friends when they behave in inappropriate ways.
"Silence is complicity."