Words April Cretan
*Content warning, references to sexual assault
Something desperately needs to change.
Women take every precautionary measure imaginable to keep themselves safe from sexual harassment and violence during their lifetimes, but the question that is rattling around my head: ‘what are men doing?’
For as long as I can remember I—a female—have been taught how to behave in public spaces in a way that would ensure my safety around the opposite sex.
- Going to the bathroom in pairs, and never alone;
- never walking alone at night;
- always locking my car doors;
- never reacting to catcalling as it could cause aggressive retaliation;
- letting someone know where I am at all times;
- being wary of what clothes I am wearing.
These rules, that are endless and hammered into females from a very early age, are to be followed—if they are not and something is to happen, females are to blame.
So, the question that keeps ringing in my brain, on loud, is ‘what are young males taught to protect them from the opposite sex?’ The question that rings around even louder: ‘why is the responsibility on females to protect themselves from a danger that is coming from males?’.
Should males—at the same age that females are taught the former important lessons and rules—be taught about respecting human beings to ensure females do not have to constantly look out for danger and negative attention?
A survey conducted by the Human Rights Commission revealed that females are four times more likely to experience sexual harassment compared to men—the statistics are even higher if the females are mentally or physically disabled. The facts are clear.
For women, safety considerations are only made more amplified when the many high-profile cases of women who have been viciously attacked, raped and murdered are in the daily news cycle. This is triggering.
These news stories remind me, as a female, how unsafe my world can be, purely because of my gender.
High levels of fear are felt by females when these stories break, as it magnifies how vulnerable they are to sexual violence. The reports about females who followed every single one of those precautions taught us—triggering a much deeper fear—there were victims who did everything right and were still unsafe.
This is frightening, as it reinforces the message that you can follow every preventative measure and you could still be a victim.
The responsibility should never on the victim, the responsibility should always be on the offender. The person who should have been taught how to act. Who should have been taught right from wrong.
It is understandable to come from a place of no experience with unwanted sexual advances and feel there is not an issue. However, for too many women, it’s a daily reality.
Plan International surveyed hundreds of women in Sydney and they found that nine in ten felt unsafe at night. In many cases, the underlying fear is the behaviour of men. “Without doubt, at the heart of harassment is a deep disrespect or disregard for women as equals, as something more than an object, a body, a sexual being,” says Susanne Legena, Plan Australia’s chief executive officer.
If you are a male reading this, your thoughts the entire time might have been, “well I would never do that”. Even so, everyone within society has an important role in improving the situation for all females, and this should be instilled from a young age in males.
So, ask yourself, do you want to see change? Do you want females to feel safe? Do you think it is more important to protect your daughter or educate your son?