Guest column: "We need to stand together to champion the right for everyone to move freely without fear following deaths of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa"

“I am angry. Most women are angry. We should all be angry.

Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 7:15 pm

“She was just walking home,” was the heartbroken cry after the murder of Sarah Everard, killed at the hands of a serving police officer, the person that young people are told that they can trust.

Sabina Nessa was walking to meet a friend and never got there.

Many of us have cried, vented our anger, joined vigils and begged for action. We’ve shared our stories. We have all felt that same horror that it could have been us. Just walking home. Just meeting a friend.

Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa were both killed while walking alone

Every day, women and girls experience harassment. In 2018, 66 per cent of young women aged between 16-21 told Plan International they had experienced unwanted sexual attention or harassment in a public place. A Girlguiding UK survey earlier this year, found 67 per cent of girls and young women have experienced sexual harassment at school, in an environment where they should feel safe.

It’s also a fact that many women don’t report these instances. We have become conditioned to it and think we won’t be taken seriously.

We know it isn’t all men. We know not all men hurt or harass women. But we also know that not all men call it out. No-one is in doubt that physical violence is wrong. But sexual harassment takes many forms.

It can be a sexist comment in a meeting. It can be sending unwanted photos. It can be catcalling.

Two and a half years ago, I was waiting for a train home when I became the subject of heckling and catcalling by a group of men. I felt intimidated and scared. Yet speaking about the experience after, a comment was made by a male friend: “Not all guys are like that. I think most men appreciate a random woman who has taken the time to make herself look good, thereby making herself feel good.”

We know it isn’t all men. But when you walk home knowing exactly where your phone is, letting someone know where you are, walking faster, that heart in mouth moment and increased pulse when you hear footsteps, we may rationally know it isn’t all men, but we don’t know which men.

Street harassment isn’t a compliment. We don’t know who will turn nasty. We need to stand together to champion the right for everyone to move freely without fear, including all men.”

The author of this column is fearful of abuse and we agreed to it being published anonymously