Scared to Walk Alone

My daughter and I left a Target and walked to the car. She wanted to take a picture of something. I watched her take the picture, and then we got into our vehicle. I told her, “If you are with friends or alone, please be careful not to get distracted. If you happen to have a drink in your hand and someone approaches you and tries to grab you, throw the drink in their face.” She says, “I know Mom, you told me this already.” She is 13 years old. I started telling her things like this when she was six years old.

When I go for a walk, I hold pepper spray. I park my car in well-lit parking lots and try not to park in parking structures. Before I get in my vehicle, I looked to see if someone is hiding in the back seat. I try to do errands during the day. I never took a night class unless I knew someone so we could walk to the parking lot together. I held my beverage in my hand and never set it down because someone could drug me. These are just some of the things women have to do to avoid being assaulted and raped.

A woman named Sarah Everard disappeared after she left a friend’s home in South London. She was dressed for the cold weather, walking in a well-lit area, as she spoke to her boyfriend on the phone. Sarah was kidnapped by an off-duty police officer and murdered. Her body was dumped next to a pond in a public area. People began victim-blaming. Why was she walking at night? Why was she on her phone? Why didn’t she call a cab?

Here is my question, why did that man kidnap Sarah and kill her?

Women should walk at any time of the day without fear of rape or kidnapping or murder. But our culture does not allow it. Somehow it is our fault we get assaulted or raped because we wear tank tops and shorts on a hot day.

To the parents of boys, please teach your sons that rejection is okay and women don’t want to be ogled and treated as sexual objects. No, not all men do this, but enough do.

When I was 16 years old, I walked home from my bus stop and was followed by a man in his car. There were no cell phones to call the police, just my legs to run as fast so I would not be kidnapped. Thankfully, a young boy playing basketball at his home saw me, and the man following me and brought me to his mom and they hid me until I could call the police. So many girls are not this fortunate. That event happened 28 years ago and it feels like yesterday.

I think of the millions of girls and women around the world who want to live life but have to live in fear every day because they can’t take a walk by themselves. Instead, we have to learn self-defense and/or carry weapons and follow a long list of procedures to ensure our safety. It should not have to be this way.

May you rest in peace, dear Sarah.

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