Being a Woman at Night

Walking home from the library at midnight one night this week, I was struck by how paranoid both I, and a nearby girl, were. I left the library very close behind her and before too long she’d turned round twice to check who was behind her; I shortly overtook her, wherein it became my turn to keep looking over my shoulder. I passed only one man one the way home, and it is a well-lit, fairly busy road the whole way home, so why  this natural reaction?

Perhaps it’s because I’m used to being either with my boyfriend or on my bike, or because I’m from a small island instead of a city, or simply because there are as many horror stories in the news as ever. Whatever it is, I wouldn’t consider myself as being scared, as I feel like I live in a safe city, but this feels like an unavoidable and all too common reaction to being out after dark.

Unfortunately, there have been two incidents of harassment on our campus this term; these weren’t well reported, but there was just enough coverage and information to make people worry again. Equally, with the amount of women’s campaigns going on at the moment- No More Page 3 is just one major example- it is all too easy to have any concerns in the forefront of our minds.

The trouble is that, thanks to the globalised news network today, we feel much closer and at risk of events that are worlds away from us here in the UK. For instance, the harrowing Delhi gang-rape case that took place on a public bus in December; this is a horrifying example of a brutal act towards an innocent woman, despite having a male friend with her, and hearing about all the details of something that we don’t want to imagine can still happen in a developing country, and it is natural for us to panic that it might happen here too.

Ultimately, we are making lots of progress in the fight for women (despite the many men who still believe such a thing as ‘legitimate rape’ exists, and worse) but there must be more we can do to make us feel, and be, safe. Currently, there are far too many cases in which a rape victim doesn’t get anywhere with her case, or the rapist gets off extremely lightly; perhaps a reform of this branch of the criminal system could get our country off to a new start, and lead by example.


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