How It Feels To Be A Woman At Night
Let's start today's post with a story....
"From behind the woman looked hunched, folded into herself as though she was hiding something, her gaze down and her footsteps quickened the woman moved seamlessly.
As if from nowhere, the street became quiet and the air still. It was only now that the woman could feel the pounding in her chest, feel the warmth of her breath as she pulled her jacket tightly around herself, further shrouding herself from the world around her. But, the shadow behind her continued to grow, almost engulfing her as it did so.
She quickened her pace, fixating on the door ahead, now only a few minutes away from her, the door that leads to her safe sanctuary, to her place of comfort, her home. The woman didn't dare to turn around, knowing that it was a bet against time, she could feel the muscles in her legs start to ache as she began to break into a slow jog but she couldn't stop, not now. She was almost there, almost home, just a few more steps..."
The above whilst seemingly slightly dramatic (ok, a bit more than slightly... I got pretty carried away) is actually the reality of how most women feel when walking home alone, in the dark counting the steps until they are home.
As a woman, I won't lie to you, sometimes I feel scared when walking home alone at night. It doesn't matter if I am walking for 2 minutes or 20, I am scared. Don't get me, wrong, I live in a safe suburban area but I still acknowledge that it is a very real possibility that one day with no warning at all something could very bad could happen to me.
And that's just what it is, the fear of the unknown, when it's dark no matter how safe your area is you have no idea of what's lurking out there in the dark. As a woman who cannot defend herself to the same degree that a man can, this can make you feel extremely uncomfortable.
I remember one night when I was on holiday in Seville, I had this exact feeling.
My boyfriend and I had gone out for dinner and drinks one evening and had ended up venturing quite far out from our hotel. I guess because the city looked so beautiful at night, we couldn't resist a nightly stroll. Anyway, before we realised it was pretty late and the streets had slowly become a lot quieter, with only the occasional bar open on a random side street.
My boyfriend, not being one for Google maps, was guiding us back to our hotel using his surprisingly good sense of direction based on our north, south, east and west positioning . Whilst his method meant that we were able to find our way home it also meant that we has to go down a number of small, dark streets.
Now, although I was with my boyfriend who I knew would protect me, I couldn't help but feel really uneasy. Especially, when we went past a group of three men along a particularly narrow street. They were smoking and speaking in hushed voices, clearly about us, in spanish as we walked past. I remember at the time, my grip on my boyfriend's hand instantly tightened and I urged him under my breath to pick up his pace.
Afterwards, I told my boyfriend that I felt like we were in a really vulnerable position earlier and it made me feel uneasy. He sympathised with me and from then on made us stick to only main roads but I could tell that he didn't really understand why I felt this way.
The crap we sometimes have to put up wth as women
This isn't to say that the world is a big, dark place where no one is safe but when you hear the horror stories of women getting attacked on their way home it definitely gives you something to think about. In the media, we are constantly exposed to stories about rape whether it is rape in the traditional sense as we imagine it, in a dark alley somewhere, or whether it is by someone that we know. What's more shocking than the prevalence of rape (did you know that in Brazil someone is raped every 11 minutes?!), is that some people still propose the fact that the woman (or man) was 'asking for it'. That the (s)he was dressed 'inappropriately' or that they were 'drunk', that (s)he was a 'tease' or 'if they were being raped, why didn't they fight back or scream' or even worse completely dismiss the rape altogether.
In a society that is meant to keep us safe, people should not ever be made to feel like sexual assault is their fault or be in a position where your safety when walking home at night is such a primary concern. I know some of you may read this and think that the opening story was a bit dramatic, but honestly now you have a glimpse into what it feels like to be a woman alone at night. Fearing a late night journey home because you're exposed to terrors that are completely out of your control and having anxiety over what should be considered a normal walk home.