"Text Me When You Get Home."
Over the last two weeks, in response to the tragic kidnapping and murder of Sarah Everard in the UK, women across the globe have been sharing their experiences of sexual harassment, domestic violence, sexual assault and a general feeling of fear when walking alone in public spaces —and the things they do to protect themselves on a daily basis, especially when they are alone.
These stories come as no surprise to women. We have been conditioned our entire lives to look out for danger and to stay vigilant at all times. It is so ingrained within us, that we have come to accept feeling unsafe on our own and at night as ‘normal’ and we have learned to work around it. Why is this the norm? How has this happened?
In this blog post, we will be discussing:
- Our shared experiences of feeling unsafe
- What we can do to protect ourselves
- How we can change the status quo for future generations
Some of the most commons questions we ask ourselves every time we leave the house are, How do I get there and back? How safe is the location and the surroundings? Is it possible to get home from there? With which means of transport do I feel safe on the route at night? Will I go home with others later, or will I be alone? How can I defend myself in case of an attack? How can I protect my well-being?
How many times have you taken a longer route home to avoid poorly lit and empty streets? How many times have you rustled your keys to alert a potential attacker that you live in the neighbourhood? How many times have you kept your keys between your fingers to use as a weapon if necessary? How many times have you shared your location on Facebook or Uber with a friend to ensure you get home alright?
Despite the tragic events that initiated this social media tidal wave of women speaking up, we are happy that our voices are now being heard and listened to by our male counterparts. We have been so inspired by the stories we have heard, especially though Huha's Instagram account, the Huha Team thought we would share our own experiences with you, in the hopes of keeping this dialogue going.
"I was on a trip to Nicaragua with friends, and we were staying in a very remote, dirt-road-for-an-hour-outside-of-town complex of homes. It turned out, everyone in our group got sick for a few days except for me, but of course I still wanted to enjoy my time.
I wandered down the dirt road path to the pool by myself, and as I passed the neighbour's home, music blaring out the open window and four guys partying inside, I had a sinking feeling. "Please don't see me," I thought to myself.
After 10 minutes or so of me waiting by the pool to make sure they didn't follow me, I figured the coast was cleared so I jumped in and enjoyed myself for a bit. Finally when I was leaving the pool, I heard a car approaching the road above the pool fast. It stopped abruptly and 3 of the guys jumped out of the truck and ran –– literally RAN –– down the stairs to the pool, cornering me against the pool. One of them had their phone out as if they were videoing.
I tried to act cordial and make conversation nervously, and pretend like I wasn't afraid. But when I reached the top of the stairs and saw the 4th guy standing outside the truck, I ran terrified back to the house.
Safe inside, I thought maybe I was crazy; but minutes later, I heard their truck coming back around the dirt road and saw the guys hanging out the truck windows looking up and the houses and around the brush. "Are they looking for me?" I thought.
I'll never know what might have happened, and I think about how lucky I might have been often."
“I have always been somebody who is early for everything, be it work or appointments - I guess I just like getting a head start on the day. On this particular day I was early for work by about 30 minutes. The office was on the 6th floor so naturally I stepped into the elevator to go up. Suddenly a loud male voice shouted to hold the door! Considering social distancing I thought it to be unusual but I held the door anyway. A tall man of heavy stature got in with me (someone I didn’t recognise, someone I know didn't work in the building).
The door of the elevator wasn’t yet fully closed and I immediately started to panic. Suddenly the 6th floor felt very far away. I turned down the music in my ears and felt my heart begin to race. We got to the second floor, when I saw his hand reach over to where the buttons were. He proceeded to press the alarm button and the call button simultaneously.
Panic raced through my body and I realised nobody knew I was early for work, nobody else would be arriving at the office for another 30 minutes. What were this man's intentions?
Even though he pressed the buttons the elevator proceeded on, dinging at each subsequent floor until it reached floor 6. I took my phone out of my bag and pretended to call my boyfriend as I opened the office door and locked it behind me.
Why didn't the elevator stop when he pressed the buttons? Who was he and what floor was he going to? Was he ever going to harm me? Maybe not, but these questions still circle in my mind months later. Was I too complacent and moreover what have I learned from this?”
"When I was 19 and in university, I rented a ground floor apartment in a townhouse with a friend. Our male friends rented the apartment above us. One evening I answered the door to a man, who claimed he was doing a student survey and began asking questions about how old I was, how many people lived with me etc. I immediately felt something was wrong. My heart started to pound and my adrenalin kicked in.
He told me that in order to complete the survey I had to cross the street to his tuck. There was no one on the street and it was dark out. I told him that I thought the guys who I lived with would like to complete this survey too and began shouting for them to come to the door (despite not knowing if they were home or not.) The guy got spooked and left. I slammed the door shut, locked it and ran up the stairs to see who was home, completely shook. To this day, I never answer the door unless I know who is on the other side."
Unfortunately our stories and experiences are not unique, are not the first and will not be the last. 😞
What Can We Do To Protect Ourselves?
Share Stories With Your Community
Just last week, a woman in Vancouver shared a video of a terrifying incident she experienced when a man began following her around downtown. It came across our account due to the amount of women forwarding and sharing it within their circles. The story has since been picked up by local media outlets and the VPD are investigating. Sharing your experiences, alerting your friends and when safe, recording your incident are things you can do to protect yourself and your gals.
Can I Carry Bear Spray?
In Canada it's illegal to carry a weapon for the purpose of self-defence. And according to the Criminal Code, a weapon can be anything designed, used or intended to cause death or injury or even just to threaten or intimidate another person.
The same applies to bear spray. You can, however carry it to protect yourself from bears and rabid canines but not from people. So, even though you have a right to defend yourself, you can't use bear spray to do so. What gives?
We understand that bear spray can and has be used as a weapon against someone in non self-defence instances. However, as women, we could argue that a man's extra height, weight, and muscles could also be viewed as a weapon to us, especially during an attack. Maybe it's time for the law to change for women?
We do recommend picking up a self-defence gadget or two that you can easily slip into your purse or pocket. Some of these include:
Personal Alarm: There are many safety alarms to carry on the market, but this personal alarm is one of the loudest. It’s small enough to fit on a keychain but produces an ear-piercing 140 decibel sound – as loud as a jet engine – for as long as 30 minutes.
Smart Jewelry: These dainty, discreet necklaces and bracelets look like any other piece of modern jewelry, but they actually go to work for you during an emergency. Their minimal metallic charms communicate with your smartphone via Bluetooth, so they double as a chic on-the-go panic button.
Self-Defense Keychain: The strong yet lightweight aluminum keychain has an attack head that features a blunt but focused point that can break a window or injure a predator so you can escape.
Plan your trip/walk in advance. Get familiar with the route and landmarks. Be aware of your surroundings. Look for and learn where the entrances and exits are in an unfamiliar room or building. Don't listen to music or a podcast when walking alone. Park your car in a well lit area. Use your keys as a weapon if necessary. Most importantly, trust your gut. When your intuition sends off warning bells, take heed.
If you feel threatened, create a scene by shouting, screaming, and yelling for help as loudly as you can. This may throw the thug off guard and cause him to step back for a moment, providing the precious seconds you need to escape.
Take a self-defence course designed especially for young women. Investing a little money and time into a self-defence class or two is worth the potentially life-saving techniques you'll learn. Just be sure to do your research first.
Learn what technology options are available to you for your safety such as;
Uber: You can share your trip status and location on the map with friends and family, right from the app, so someone you trust always knows where you are. You can start and stop sharing anytime. People you share your trip with will see where you are on a live map, trip status, and details like your name, phone number, and license plate number.
Facebook: Similar to Uber, Facebook has a feature on Messenger that allows you to share your live location with your contacts and friends.
Iphone: If you press and hold the side button and one of the volume buttons an Emergency SOS slider appears. If you drag the Emergency SOS slider it will call emergency services. If you continue to hold down the buttons until the countdown ends, your iPhone automatically calls emergency services
Hollaback App: The Hollaback app is about collecting evidence of street harassment to provide proof to worldwide authorities about the extent of the problem. It takes your location and lets you give details about how you were harassed or what you witnessed happening to somebody else.
Not All Men... But All Women
Tweets and text posts have recently circulated on social media, in which men asked what they could do to make women feel safer. This is a positive step toward rethinking women’s safety and to end violence - by putting the responsibility on those who make women feel unsafe: men.
#NotAllMen has been trending on Twitter and it completely misses the point: it might not be all men, but it’s a lot more than most men would like to believe.
Murder and rape might be the extremes of the physical violence towards women, but the smaller, everyday harassment women face contributes equally to feelings fear and uneasiness. Something that might seem inconsequential to a man—like flirting in an inappropriate setting, walking too closely behind someone at night, or laughing at a rape joke, are actually very harmful to women. There needs to be more education for men that not only renounces various forms of violence towards women, but also inappropriate verbal behaviour as well.