TW: Covers violence against women in relation to current events in the UK.
I’m a woman and I’m exhausted.
I’m exhausted of having to add more to the novel long list of rules. Rules I shouldn’t have to have, to survive to just be. To just be as a woman, without being bothered, harassed, or worse, attacked and/or killed. In particular, by a man. Whether I know them or not, that’s the long and short of it.
Ever since being a little girl, there were rules. The rules to stay safe and what to do if a stranger approaches you in a car or van, asking for directions or offering sweeties. To stay safe from nasty people, nasty men, who like to do nasty things to little girls like you. Self defence classes started at six.
When I got to my teens, more rules were added. Don’t wear anything too short, too low, too tight, too this, too that. How you dress can affect who bothers you. Don’t wear too much makeup. Don’t try and look older or younger than you really are. Traffickers like that. Older men who should know better, who like doing nasty things to underage girls like you like that.
You remember Taken, right? Dad got even more protective after that. You remember Trust, don’t you? That’s why Mum doesn’t want you talking to strangers online. Don’t go to town on your own. Don’t talk to strangers on the internet. If they say ‘ASL’ (age, sex, location), don’t talk to them. Don’t act ‘common’. Don’t look ‘trashy’. Don’t ‘invite’ unwanted attention.
Boys at school pringing the back of your bra was something you would all have to deal with. It shouldn’t happen, but ‘boys will be boys’. Sooner or later, a boy will grab your boobs or butt, and you have every right to wallop them for it. It shouldn’t happen, but with a shake of the head and an angry voice, ‘boys will be boys.’ Like their fathers and grandfathers, it was their turn to learn.
If a male teacher acts strangely towards you, says or does anything inappropriate, tell your parents, your friend, a teacher, the police. An inevitable evil us girls will just have to deal with. Our grandmothers and mothers dealt with the same, and now it was, sadly but inevitably, our turn. Still watch out for the men in cars. The curb crawlers. The perverts. They like girls like you.
When I became an adult, the same rules applied. But now it wasn’t just traffickers anymore. You got too old for the paedophiles. Now, it was taxi drivers. No matter how old you are, if you’re in a taxi, call family. Even if it’s not your Dad, always say, ‘Hi Dad.’ Say loud and clear for the driver to hear how long you’ll be and what the taxi number is, the driver number if it’s there.
Have a code word. If you’re in trouble, use your code word so it sounds like a normal conversation. We’ll know you’re in trouble and need to get help. If you’re in a bar or club, go to the bar and ask the bartender for Angela. They’ll know.
Pepper spray is illegal here, so use body spray if you need to. . Have your keys in your fingers. Scratch, scream, get as much DNA under your fingernails. If you survive, you can catch them through description and DNA matching. If you die and your body is found, forensics will find DNA. Take a strand of hair and stuff in the taxi somewhere the driver won’t get in during clean up if he kidnaps or kills you. I saw that tip from online.
Look ‘respectable’. Don’t listen to music. Our mothers lived through the Yorkshire Ripper. “The victims who survived said they never heard him coming when he hit them on the head from behind,” I’ve heard Mum say so many times. Tips and tricks to survive are passed down through generations. It’s the world’s greatest open secret: how to survive life as a woman.
If you can, never walk to the bus stop on your own. Have a male friend who you can trust walk you there. Same with getting to taxis on a night out. Make sure a friend, especially a male friend you can trust if possible. Any guy worth their salt will know that they need to look out for you like you need to look out for yourself. The male friends who say ‘let me know when you’re home safe.’ Who pretend to be your boyfriend or husband when another man is bothering you. The ex-police who help you with self-defence and tricks of the trade. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.
Because a guy who won’t leave you alone might not listen to you, but they’ll listen to another man. So use that if all else fails, and if they get physical, you remember your self-defence, right? Knee to the groin, hip throw. I learned how to dislocate shoulders and damage kidneys at six, because of boys and men who don’t like the word ‘no’.
If there’s a police officer around and you’re getting bothered, go to them. They will help you…
That’s just it. Now we can’t even trust the police either. The people who are meant to protect us. Because back in March, Sarah Everard, a woman who was, by all accounts ‘following the rules’, walking down a well lit, well known street, bright clothes etc. was kidnaped, raped and murdered by a serving police officer. He ‘arrested’ her, using his badge to arrest her under false pretences for ‘breaking Covid restrictions’, a patrol he served in this past January. He abused his power to abuse an innocent woman who sadly, was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This police officer was caught flashing people three days before, was allegedly known from his subordinates as a nightmare to work with, and nicknamed by colleagues, other police officers, as ‘The Rapist.’ All the signs that something wasn’t right, that there was some propensity for potential violence against women. Yet nothing was done, until a woman died at his hand.
And the like the time when the Yorkshire Ripper was terrorizing our mothers in the 70s and early 80s, society and the police gave us more rules and shelled out blame. She shouldn’t have been walking home at night. She shouldn’t have ‘let him arrest her’. Women should ‘learn that part of the legal process.’ Women should ‘run to a nearby house’, ‘flag down a bus’, ‘scream’, ‘demand to see the badge’ if you feel unsafe being approached by police, especially if by a lone male officer.
More rules. More rules for us instead of accountability for them. For the systemic issues within the Force. Within society. Instead of tackling male violence, we’re being given more rules to try and appease the monster. Instead of telling us to police the police, how about making sure your officers don’t rape and murder us? How about addressing the staggering rate of domestic violence at the hands of officers, approx. 40% from some data sources.
What about the officers whom, upon finding two women murdered in a London park, took selfies with the corpses? The officers that blame assault victims by what they wore or how intoxicated they were? The abuses of power to contact a woman to ask her out, or stalk her if she says no? The women who are sexually assaulted by officers during routine stops and searches? Because who are you going to go to? The police?
And before anyone says, ‘not all police’, I know. I have worked with the police in the past as a freelancer. Working with people who are the pinnacle of what, in my opinion, an officer, detective etc. should be. Like ‘not all men’, we know. But it’s enough. It’s enough that it’s a systemic issue. When it’s enough for a systemic issue, it’s more than we like to admit. It’s more than those being defensive want to admit. We know it’s, ‘not all officers’ and ‘not all men’, but we don’t know which ones. They don’t come with a warning or look like villains we see in movies, cartoons and comics.
And the more we bury our heads in the sand, and put blame on the victims, the more free reign you allow the perpetrators. Perpetrators like this love positions of power where they can impose it over others. We see this systemic issue in multiple occupations, most notably the Military, Police and the Priesthood, where we’ve seen abuse and cover ups spanning decades.
But now, with the British Police, it is just more rules for women, instead of tackling the issue at the source. As many women have found out, appeasing the monster with the ‘rules’, doesn’t work. Your clothing will not protect you. Where you walk won’t protect you. Even who you marry will not protect you. If the monster wants to exercise their terror, they will find a way by hook or by crook.
But only as long as the powers that be coddle the monster. And sadly, they don’t want to stop. I’m tired of rules I shouldn’t have to follow, lest we make the monster angry. But that’s the really scary part: The monster looks just like you and me. We don’t know who they are until the mask slips off. And here’s the thing: there’s more than one monster.
It’s about time you help us take the monsters down, because we’ve had enough. We had enough long ago.