Stay with a group.
Ask the security guard to walk you to your car.
Park in a well-lit area.
Walk home through a well-lit area, on main roads, where there are lots of people.
Cross the street if you’re approaching someone and you’re alone.
Carry your keys between your fingers so you could easily strike or stab.
Take a self-defense class. Learn their weak points—eyes, neck, groin.
Check under your vehicle and in your backseat before getting in your car.
Don’t go running with headphones in so you can always be aware of your surroundings and hear someone coming up behind you.
Wear bright clothing so you’re visible, but be covered enough so you look conservative and don’t draw attention to yourself.
Scream, run, and make noise if you ever feel uncomfortable.
Fight like hell—kicking and biting and screaming—to avoid going with someone trying to take you. Don’t get trapped.
The list goes on. These are the things we’re told from the first time we start going anywhere as young women. We memorize them. We stamp them into our brains in high school, college, and continue to say them to ourselves when walking through a parking garage at night when we’re in our 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond.
Because it never stops, no matter what age we are, what city we’re in, what we are wearing, or how “safe” the neighborhood might be. The possibility of being attacked is always on our minds, and we must always be vigilant. Yet, the sad reality is that even when we do what we are supposed to do (since it’s on us to avoid being raped or murdered)—wear bright clothes, walk home in well-lit areas, try to be home by midnight… even then, it can all still go horribly wrong, as it did for Sarah Everard.
Her tragic and senseless death has gripped the U.K. as well as the rest of the world for that exact reason. A young woman was brutally murdered despite doing “everything right”—except, of course, being out, alone, at night. Because even that will somehow be her fault, as it’s always our fault when we do the same, basic things men do all the time, without thinking. Things like going for a run, alone. Walking to our car, alone. Being out late at night. Walking home from a friend’s house.
We tell ourselves it’s fine. We’ll be fine. We have the right to walk home from a friend’s house without being murdered. We shouldn’t have to walk in a group. We shouldn’t have to be prepared, mentally and physically, to fight for our lives. Maybe that’s what Sarah Everard told herself on the night of March 3, but we’ll never know.
However, maybe, finally, this woman’s death will not be in vain. Maybe, finally, the conversation will shift from adding more and more protective measures women should take, and instead, society will start talking about who is really at fault here. And we can start putting the responsibility on men. On raising boys who don’t expect women to welcome their advances. Boys who grow up knowing that women don’t owe them anything and have the right—without violent repercussions—to reject, even ignore, a guy who wants their attention.
But for now, the conversation is still on Sarah. On how she was alone, how it was late at night, and the various decisions she made that led to this horrific end.
Women everywhere think of her because we’ve all been her. We’ve all walked home alone, at some point. We’ve all been nervous, clutching our keys, walking briskly to our cars, sending the “be there in 10” text so someone knows to come looking if we don’t show up.
We walk with Sarah, as we are all Sarah. A 33-year old woman who was just walking home from a friend’s house. And who didn’t deserve to die.
But despite everything we do to keep ourselves safe, and despite how many times we tell ourselves “everything is fine” and “I’ll be okay,” the truth is that femicide—the killing of women by men—is on the rise. So that list of things we do to protect ourselves? It’s only going to grow.
Last November, the Femicide Census reported that between 2009-2018, 1,425 women were killed in the U.K., which amounts to one every three days.
“In spite of better legislation, training and knowledge, the horrendous toll of fatal violence against women has remained unchanged for a decade. We have yet to learn the full impact of the pandemic,” says The Guardian in an article that focuses on femicide of older women, because this epidemic doesn’t discriminate.
Furthermore, it’s important to note that although Sarah Everard’s death was tragic and cruel, the demographic of women who are at the greatest risk of attack are those who are Black and trans.
Because as much as we should talk about Sarah Everard, we must also say names like Diamond Kyree Sanders, Tyianna “Davarea” Alexander, Dominique Jackson, and Fifty Bandz, among countless others.
These are the names of Black trans women who have been killed this year. Sadly, and horrifically, 2021 is already on track, if this pace of violent deaths continues, to be the most deadly ever for Black trans women. (2020 holds the current record, with 45 documented killings. It’s important to note, however, that many deaths of Black trans women go unreported and often the victims are misgendered, so the number is likely much higher.)
The rate of violence Black trans women face is so high, in fact, that Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Review says that it’s “accurately been described as a pandemic within a pandemic.” A rate of violence further proven by this alarming fact: last summer, six Black trans women were found dead in a nine-day period.
“It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color — particularly Black transgender women — and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and unchecked access to guns conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities,” explains the Human Rights Campaign.
And yet, the narrative continues to be centered around women’s behavior, women’s clothing, how “provocative” women are dressed, how much women have to drink, and whether they made unsafe choices like walking alone in the dark.
Why are we putting this responsibility on women? Why is it a woman’s job to literally not get murdered? The issue here isn’t what we wear or our choice to walk home alone from a friend’s house.
The issue is our society’s obsession with controlling women. With men’s refusal and inability to be rejected or ignored, and their belief that we owe them our attention, and that we exist to serve and please them.
And, the issue is that the human race is still very much racist and very much transphobic.
Sarah Everard didn’t do anything wrong. And she didn’t deserve to die. Neither did Diamond Kyree Sanders, Tyianna “Davarea” Alexander, Dominique Jackson, and Fifty Bandz. All of these women were killed for existing or for crossing a path of a man who needed to dominate, control, and snuff out their lives due to his own insecurities and lust for power.
That is the conversation. Not “What else can women do to stay safe?” but rather “What else can our society do to raise men who respect women’s autonomy?” and also “How can we educate and break down the barriers of transphobia and racism?”
Because until we answer those last two questions, it won’t matter what measures women take to “stay safe” when we’re simply walking home.