Reclaim These Streets - Personal Experience

The horrendous kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard hus highlighted wance again the levels of uncertainty an unsafety wummin face each time we leave the hoose. There is a lot of awareness recently triggered by whit’s happened which hus prompted much needed conversations roon why we as wummin don’t feel safe, alone walking in the street an beyond. We could debate back an forth wae the #notallmen mindset but none a those men will change why a personally feel the way a feel an a doubt they will change the way other wummin feel because we’ve hud years a sexual harassment and fear that hus been somewhat normalised so as no tae cause a scene or bring unwanted attention. A grew up in the generation where ‘boys will be boys’ meant men could dae whit ever they wanted really wae little accountability an of course we huv the victim shaming where the language aroon whit’s happened tae a wummin puts aw the focus an blame oan her an no much focus or blame oan the perpetrator. Even some a ma closest pals ask ‘Kat why dae you always fear the worst?’ an it’s cause a know the worst case scenario is always possible an it’s cause av hud some experiences that huv led me tae avoid letting ma guard doon when am oot oan ma own or in small groups. This is ma ain personal experiences an a know loads a wummin will huv experienced the same hing an much worse so am sharing them tae hopefully instill that as a wummin if yer reading this yer no alone an as a man reading this, a hope ye gain a bit a perspective an understanding as tae why wummin don’t feel safe. Awrite no aw men ur oot tae harm wummin but some ur an that’s too many.

The first time a wis scared of a man a wis aboot 8/9 years auld an playing in the communal garden next tae ma hoose wae ma pal, a man wis walking by an tried tae grab her tae pull her through the hedge. She froze an screamed an a grabbed her an dragged an pulled her away an we ran in tae her hoose tae tell her maw. Her maw phoned mine, the polis were phoned an oor 2 da’s went looking fir him. The polis took his description but they never caught him an nothing ever happened. A wis scared fir a long time oot playing that it might happen again but time passed an a didnae hink aboot it as much.

When a wis 16 a wis in a taxi oan the way tae ma boyfriends hoose (this wis the days before taxi companies wid text yer taxi, license plate etc.) a remember a got in an the driver wis playing Eminem. He asked me if a liked Eminem an talked aboot how Eminem sang aboot hating wummin. He said it must be scary tae be a wummin an a quote “cause if a drove you away elsewhere the night an cut you up into tiny pieces naebody wid ever know” A wis petrified an a couldnae wait tae get oot the taxi an a wis scared shitless that a wid get oot at aw efter that comment. He drapped me aff though an a telt ma boyfriend who said the driver ‘wis a weirdo’ but it wisnae really a big deal until a got in the next day an happened tae tell ma da whit he said an ma da went aff his heid, phoned the taxi company an wis losing his nut trying tae find oot who picked me up that night. It’s probably jist as well he never found oot cause a hink he wid huv leathered the guy. Ma da wis like nae mer taxi’s anywhere for a while an tae be honest a didnae wanty get in wan efter that. Who says that kinda hing tae anybody let alone a teenage lassie oan her own?

When a wis 17 a wis in ma boyfriends hoose an his brother hud brought in a bunch a bams really cause their ma an da wis away but we didnae know that wis gauny happen an in an instant when they aw walked in the atmosphere changed. We thought they were gauny take stuff cause apparently they were notorious fir daen that in their scheme so a went intae ma boyfriends room tae put away bits and pieces an put money lying aboot oot the road when a boy a didnae know came in behind me an shut the door behind him. A wis instantly terrified an asked him whit he wis daen an he said “if you scream it’ll be worse” he pushed me against the wall an I knee’d him an screamed at the tap a ma lungs fir ma boyfriend an there wis a struggle cause this boy widnae open the door but efter a few mins ma boyfriend got in an a telt him whit happened an it kicked aff an then aw they boys left. We didnae really talk much aboot whit happened again an a never told anyone else at the time cause a thought it wis ‘nothing’ in the eyes a other people. It terrified me though.

When a wis in ma twentys ad been picking up last minute gift wrapping fae the forge an my boyfriend wis picking me up efter it, roon aboot 4pm but he couldnae get parked cause it wis so busy so he asked me if a could walk oot the back way an he’d get me oan a street there an a said aye. A wis walking alang the street an there wis a deserted industrial/building site type thing next tae me where a wis waiting, when a saw a guy stop in his tracks an look at me fae across the street, it didnae feel right an a immediately started tae notice there wis naebody else aboot so a phoned ma boyfriend an asked him tae hurry up cause there wis this guy making me uncomfortable. He said he wis a few mins away. The guy crossed the street at a speed an a panicked an started walking tae try an pass him but he shouted tae me “you’re walking me through here” gesturing tae the almost derelict industrial site thing beside us. A didnae answer him an he got closer, like he jumped towards me saying “get in here with me” an a ran across the road, at that time there wis cars an a wid huv preferred tae get hit wae a car than go in that site wae him. Wan a the cars wis ma boyfriend an when the guy saw me open the car door he bolted like lightening through the industrial site. A telt ma boyfriend whit hud jist happened an he wis understandably angry an we went tae ma maws who said a needed tae phone the polis. A remember hinking ‘whits the point he never done anything tae me’ an she said it wis whit he could’ve done tae me an might dae tae somebody else that wis why a hudty phone. So a did an a gave a description a him an wis telt it wis Christmas eve so chances ur they’d be too busy an they’d likely no find him. So that wis that really. A sometimes wonder whit might’ve happened if ma boyfriend didnae turn up or if a didnae huv it in me tae run away an it disnae bare hinking aboot.

When a moved tae New York a went tae self defence jiu jitsu cause rape an sexual assault wis so prevalent in the neighbourhood that a wanted tae gie masel the best chance possible tae get away fae a potential attacker. Most wummin a worked wae in New York hud been raped an hud told me that their attackers were never brought tae justice due tae insufficient evidence. It sickened me tae ma core.

These hings were prominent hings in ma life al never forget. Add them tae the years a getting ma arse felt/grabbed in dancings aff strange boys/men as av walked by them, the objectifying aff guys av worked wae telling each other in front a me whit they’d like tae dae tae me an the uncalled fir shouting/whistling whitever when a walked doon the street at times, aw increases a wummins fear a being ootside an walking alone anywhere, whitever the time. Like so many wummin av held ma keys in ma haun ready fir a potential attack as av walked by a guy at night, av hud ma rape alarm in ma pocket ready tae pull it, av sat in taxi’s wae 999 oan ma call screen when the driver took a detour, av sent that ‘I’m hame’ text an asked ma pals ‘tae text me when ye get in’ many times an probably always will. Don't even get me started oan unwanted sexual attention an 'flashing' oan social media. That's another post aw the gither.

Am no alone in ma experiences, this hings urny wan affs. A know loads a wummin that huv similar experiences an huv hud worse experiences. It’s no right. So when the #notallmen lads want us wummin tae appreciate their safe intentions towards us they huv tae take inty account that we’re no basing oor fears oan nothing. We’re basing oor fears oan lived experience. Years a worry an trying tae keep oorsels safe which a hope they realise is a two way responsibility. Naw no aw men ur oot tae cause us harm but we’ve aw at some point met some who ur or who huv. Some of us like me huv got away an no hud tae suffer at the hands a those men an some of us huvny been so lucky - we carry the weight a that collectively every day wae every choice we make. We ur aw outraged an upset at the Sarah Everard case because we know in an instant she could be any wan a us. We need yous tae educate yer sons oan respect, consent, accountability, responsibility an violence. Change isnae gauny happen over night but am hopeful, we've always got tae huv hope.

Thank you tae the organisers of @reclaimthesestreetsglasgow who set up an event the day fir people tae show their support an solidarity fir the safety a wummin across Glasgow.

Kat x

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