Woman walking on street

Male violence against women: all the ways women are being forced to change their daily habits to stay ‘safe’

Calling friends, walking only on main roads, framing exercise schedules around when it’s light outside — the sad reality of being a woman who’s trying to remain safe.

Never has it been more clear how unsafe it is for women on the streets as in recent weeks

Former Metropolitan police officer Wayne Couzens has been sentenced for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard and, in turn, has cast a bleak spotlight on the role of policing, sexual misconduct and how police officers are sanctioned. Six years before Couzens murdered Everard, he was investigated for indecent exposure allegations. He is also believed to have been part of a WhatsApp group chat with five other police officers that saw frequent misogynistic, racist and homophobic messages being exchanged.

Last week, the Magistrates’ Court also heard how the brutal murder of 28-year-old Sabina Nessa was ‘premeditated and predatory’. Garage worker Koci Selamaj, 36, appeared at the Old Bailey via video link on Thursday 30th September  and was charged with Nessa’s murder. Selamaj is said to have targeted Nessa as she walked through Cator Park in Kidbrooke, south-east London, when she was on her way to meet a friend.

Recent figures clearly outline the shocking scale of police violence against women and it has since been revealed that more than 750 Met police employees have faced sexual misconduct allegations since 2010, with just 83 of them being sacked.

In light of the news, Cressida Dick has vowed to add additional police to the streets of London, ultimately failing to see the downfalls when distrust of the Metropolitan police force is at an all-time high.

While Sadiq Khan has called for misogyny to be made a hate crime, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has since described how he does not support such a campaign, stating that by “widening the scope of what you ask the police to do, you will just increase the problem.”

Instead, he called for a “focus on the very real crimes” and “the very real feeling of injustice and betrayal that many people feel.”

As the headlines pile up and gendered violence is finally being brought to the fore, the fact that women aren’t safe has never been more apparent. With winter evenings getting darker, it’s already forcing many women to be more vigilant, with many taking additional precautionary measures because they just don’t feel safe any longer.  

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Jennifer, 28, London

“An incident that happened a few months ago led me to buy a rape alarm, alternate the times I go to the gym, avoid using my AirPods while out (or at least on less busy roads), even FaceTime friends and family as I’m walking to and from home. It’s certainly jarred me into being even more cautious and vigilant.”

“Making these changes is definitely affecting my everyday life. In a way, I had become so used to the stories we keep hearing about, but recently, it’s definitely hit closer to home due to the Sarah Everard case. I suspect many women who have ever gone through Clapham would be feeling the same. I know one of my friends used to jog in Clapham and has stopped going there completely.”

“The incident I experienced was, yet again, another reminder that this is something every woman is forced to live with. Every time I decide to leave the house, I have to accept that what I may or may not be wearing, the way I look, how I interact with people is a decision and one I will need to defend.”

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Bonita, 28, London

“I’ve made many changes: I go for walks on my lunch break now instead of after work, and I schedule meet-ups on the weekend to prevent me having to go out after working hours as it’s likely to be dark. If I decide to go into the office, I schedule meet-ups with friends or business acquaintances on days that I know I will be out of my house so I can save costs on Ubers. I always get an Uber home from my local station when working from the office, so sharing Ubers with friends helps to cut costs.”

“I will always get an Uber when it’s winter and dark outside. Even if it’s 4pm; if it’s dark, I will get an Uber to the station. Sometimes I’m late to things because I cannot find an Uber but it’s become a part of my routine — I’m way too anxious to walk to the station now so will just wait until an Uber becomes available.”

“I’m looking to purchase a home and the amount of Uber journeys that appeared on my account was raised by my financial advisor. I had to change my wallet set up on Uber and label it under a different account as “allowance” so that my advisor won’t see.”

Having to get Ubers all the time for safety has knock-on effects. Sometimes I don’t bother meeting up with people if I feel like I don’t want to spend on Uber for the rest of the month, which has had a negative impact on relationships. I never really explain why, because I hate the thought of friends having to come and meet me!”

“I’ve become hyper conscious. Whenever I put something in my diary I begin doing the financial calculations of that month as I know I’m likely to be out when it’s dark — I need both a financial and a time buffer to account for getting Ubers all the time.”

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Chloe, 25, London

“My issue is mainly about walking to the gym in the dark despite it being ‘day time’ and therefore ‘safe’.”

“It’s only been the past two workouts or so that I’ve noticed a problem due to the fact that the mornings have gotten darker so quickly. I tend to leave my house at about 6:20 in the morning which is now pitch black but to get to the gym I have to walk through a park that’s pretty much deserted, bar one or two other pedestrians or cyclists at that time. This morning was really really scary given the headlines, and I felt myself panicking as I walked. I considered running, but I had my over-the-shoulder gym bag on so it was obvious I wasn’t just out on a jog and I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.”

“I’ve always thought about these things but I’ve always walked down well-lit main roads, which aren’t necessarily safer but feel less risky (for example, I’m always in front of someone’s house). I moved a month ago though so my new gym route, with the park and the paths, just feels undoable. If we hadn’t had the headlines recently I know I’d still be nervous because I’m a woman who lives in this society and is always acutely aware of my safety, but I don’t know if I’d be as jumpy and shaken if it wasn’t for recent stories.”

“I now walk the long way round the path (which is not lit, I might add) instead of taking the short cut through a slightly off-track wooden area — which the man walking behind me also did, and infuriatingly then marched on so much further ahead of me.”

“I always keep my headphones in but with no music on, so I looked distracted and busy but am aware of my surroundings.”

“My workout this morning was pretty shit — I was distracted, nervous and on edge. I’m just not going to be able to go for morning workouts until the clocks change I think as I still feel so jittery from the situation — which is bizarre because the gym is such a de-stresser for me. That would mean re-arranging my entire day and work schedule around being outside during daylight hours.”

“I guess we are just led to believe that bad things only happen at night or when you’re drunk or whatever other stupid excuses people want to make, but during daytime hours, I still feel unsafe.”

“It just feels like we can’t win. I am so vehemently against women having to change their behaviour but if I don’t then I’m left totally shaken up all day. And it’s not an overreaction — I’ve had the stares and been approached before on the street, which is one thing in the day time, but even more scary if it happened alone in the pitch black.”

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Aoifke, 20, York

“Each time I walk anywhere after 7pm or when it starts getting dark, I ring a male friend the entire walk until I’m home safe.”

“I also try to have as little belongings on me as possible so I can run easier if need be. I don’t wear heeled shoes outside much anyway, but especially not now. I even got some cheap trainers for nights out so I can easily run in them.”

“I’ve found that with all of my girl pals, I’m forever worried as to where they are more than normal because of recent news.”

“I’ve always carried keys in my hand and shared my location with a friend but I’ve definitely been more cautious due to everything going on. I think not just for myself, but for those around me so they are reassured that I’m OK. These measures we’re having to take help us keep each other safe.”

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Maria, 35, London

“I live in South Woodford in London and although the area is considered to be safe, it just does not feel safe anywhere now. Because all of the recent killings were so random and did not depend on the safety of the area at all.”

“Just the other day I booked an Uber, because I was returning home late. I passed a young woman walking and I thought to myself ‘wow, she’s so brave to walk alone with earphones in at 10pm’  — I don’t think I ever thought like that before. I’ve even bought a flashlight for walks with the dog in the forest.”

“Recently, I’ve definitely taken more Ubers than before. I’ve also taken longer routes to get home due to bus schedules and stops. Trying to finish meetings in the city while it’s light is also important so that I can be back home when it’s still daylight.”

Crystal, 34, Manchester

“I can’t remember at what point I started not to feel safe walking around by myself because I feel like it’s always been ingrained in me. Recently though, because more people are finally talking about violence against women, it feels that there’s such a focus on it, but things still are at an all-time low.”

“I shouldn’t but I walk home by myself a lot – my friends live on the other side of the city so I’m often the only one taking the journey in my direction. I never really used to consider it until one time I was followed home and approached in my doorway – he’d been following me for at least 20 minutes, I was just unaware.”

“Since then, and definitely because of recent news, I have a rape alarm on me as well as some beginner-level knowledge of self-defence. I’m going back to classes even though I don’t really want to because I feel it’s necessary.”

“When taking taxis now, I always take pictures of the number plates just in case. The changes I’m making are morbid when you think about it – many of us are making our whereabouts known in case we’re ever kidnapped or killed, to be frank – but you can never be too careful.”

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Main image: Getty

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