Original article from Kent Live
At a time where the safety of women has come into question, many are asking for a change of narrative.
The issues women face just innocently walking home has been at the forefront of everybody's mind for the past two weeks.
Sadness spread across the country upon learning how a woman from Brixton went missing, after walking home from a friends house, and was found a week later in a woodland in Ashford.
This event was followed by vigils being organised across England, a debate in the House of Lords discussing misogyny hate crimes, and an outpouring of stories on social media of women’s personal experiences.
An incredible response on social media has left many people debating why the focus lies on women, to protect themselves, rather than on men to change their actions and attitudes towards women.
From day dot, we are taught to not walk alone on the dark street, and that if we must we better keep keys at the ready and our eyes peeled, for the inevitable attack that we all fear for our entire lives.
Like many others, I have too followed the rules that women are told to abide by, when walking home alone.
I have been faced with the challenge of batting men away from grabbing me, or being on edge on my way home, because I feared what every woman fears.
'No matter how much I covered up I was still cat called by a random man'
I remember several instances of harassment, cat calling and assault during my time living in Bournemouth, where I lived for three years to complete my degree.
Many will ask the dreaded question of "well what were you wearing?" in instances of cat calling, do you want to know what I was wearing?
I wore jeans, trainers and a coat that went just above my knees, my hood was up, the coat was fully zipped, hair tucked in and head down as I walked back to my uni flat.
No matter how much I covered up I was still cat called by a random man.
And the same happened when I was walking back home from the club with my girls, and a group of men behind us were shouting at me.
Signing up to the KentLive newsletter means you'll get the latest news direct to your inbox twice a day.
It couldn't be simpler and it takes seconds – simply press here, enter your email address and follow the instructions. You can also enter your email address in the box below the picture on most desktop and mobile platforms.
You can also sign up to our website and comment on our stories by pressing here and signing in.
They talked about my bum and made sexual comments about it, but when I made a retort back about their comments, they had the attitude of what do you expect, "you have your arse out" one shouted back.
I was wearing leggings, not running around naked, and even if that were the case, who are you to comment and shout sexual comments my way?
I remember sitting outside my accommodation relaxing on the bench outside, when a random man, who looked in his 50s, approached me.
He sat down quite close, uncomfortably close and started to talk about having lots of money and no one to spend it on, hinting at wanting to take a girl out- so me- and just continued to hit on me. I was 18 at the time.
Do you know how on edge and uncomfortable I was. I was all alone outside, this random man sitting close to me, trying to hit on me, whilst I am trying to relax and take a breath outside after studying.
What could I say? "Can you go away please", I promise you it's pretty hard to say no when you feel vulnerable in a situation.
I just continued to fake laugh and give short answers, hoping this man would take a hint, but he never did, so I eventually came out with an excuse to run back inside my flat.
'And yet again I just froze, I felt so uncomfortable and so scared that I didn't know what to do'
I remember going out to a nightclub, Cameo Wednesday's were my favourite and the best time to go out and let off some steam.
I was outside in the smoking area when I was suddenly talking to a boy, as I went to walk away he grabbed me around the waist, trying to force me to kiss him.
I can't recall how many times I tried to push him away, arms outstretched pushing him back, just laughing it off because what else could I do, and do you know what stuck out to me the most?
His two friends just standing there nearby and looking at the scene, that was a girl being grabbed by their mate and them not doing a thing about it.
As I escaped and walked away it dawned on me, did that actually just happen? That wasn't funny and it certainly wasn't okay.
The clubs are the worst for things like this, people say that it's when women are alone when they're most vulnerable. But in clubs you are surrounded by a sea of people and yet that's when I have been grabbed the most.
For some insane reason, even when there is all the space in the world to pass by me, men think it's okay to push themselves up against me and put their hands on my lower back or waist, when it's really, really not necessary.
I remember walking home with one of my siblings friends and he felt comfortable enough to put his hand on my lower back, that hand eventually slid down to my backside, this is my brothers friend, someone who I trusted to behave himself and yet here he was touching me.
And yet again I just froze, I felt so uncomfortable and so scared that I didn't know what to do.
And a part of myself hates that I couldn't just say, "excuse me, can you remove your hands from my body, it is not yours".
But I didn't. I would like to believe that now I am older and stronger, I wouldn't ever let that slide past me again, I hope I am right.
'Complacency makes you complicit'
Playing this societal game of keeping yourself covered up, keys in hand for protection and not being alone on the streets, just puts restrictions and fear on women to protect themselves, as if the decisions we make will affect if we get assaulted or worse.
The narrative needs to change, women shouldn't be told and taught to live in fear, the streets need to be made safer, men's attitudes need to change.
Whenever there is discussion towards men's behaviour towards women, the phrase "not all men" comes to the surface.
Understandably, it is not all men, but we don't know which men will cause us harm, if it's the random guy on the street, a friend or even a partner.
I believe one of the ways to tackle this issue is for men to call out their fellow friends when these things happen, because complacency makes you complicit.
This conversation is not to take away from men's experiences of assault and harassment, these crimes can happen to anyone, but we all need our space to talk about these issues, without being shutdown.