Common Sense: To be touched between the thighs

Demonstrators gather in memory of Sarah Everard who went missing while walking home from a friend’s flat on March 3 and since found dead, during a protest under the banner Reclaim the Streets, in Parliament Square, central London, Monday March 15, 2021. Police have confirmed that a Metropolitan Police officer stands charged with kidnapping and murder, and has revived the painful question of why women often not safe on the streets. No matter how much we want to normalize self-defense for women, it isn’t normal. Photo courtesy of Dominic Lipinski / PA via AP/

Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, was walking home alone when she was murdered by someone who was supposed to protect her. Despite doing many of the things women are advised to do when walking home, such as talking on the phone and taking well-lit streets, she never made it. When London women took to protest the injustice surrounding her death, their outcries were met with chaos

Everard was taking a 50 minute walk from a friend’s house in the Clapham neighborhood of London at 9 p.m. on March 3 to her apartment in nearby Brixton. Her remains were then found in a wooded area on March 12 in Kent. A 48-year-old serving police officer named Wayne Couzens was arrested and charged with Everard’s kidnapping and murder. So, what are women to do now? Before they couldn’t trust strangers and now they can’t even trust the authorities because while UK police waste their time guarding a Churchill statue, over 70% of UK women are experiencing sexual harassment. 

But let’s forget about the UK and look at the issue a little closer to home: Storrs. In 2018 there were a total of 23 rapes reported on-campus, that number falling to nine the following year. There were also nine and 10 cases of fondling in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Keep in mind that those are just the reported numbers; we can’t account for all the people who don’t speak out about their experiences. Gender violence has always been a major issue at UConn and, given what happened to Everard, it’s safe to say that simply existing as a woman is hard. 

No matter how much we want to normalize self-defense for women, it isn’t normal. Young girls shouldn’t be told what they should or shouldn’t wear. They shouldn’t have to hold their keys between their knuckles as they walk to their cars or feel forced to have to put on sneakers so that they have an easier time running if things turn dark. And anybody can argue that skirts certainly aren’t an invitation to be touched between the thighs, but the reality is that common decency doesn’t stop certain people from doing indecent things. 

We’ve heard the same arguments against gender violence many times and I have to admit that it does get annoying, but when people have to repeatedly talk about a topic then it’s a sign that there is an unresolved issue. I won’t tell you that men are the root of all the world’s evils. Men can experience rape and sexual assault just as bad as women but the fact of the matter is  that most perpetrators just happen to be male. According to UN Women, 137 women are killed by a member of their family every day. Fifteen million adolescent girls worldwide, aged 15–19 years, have experienced forced sex, and adult women account for nearly half of all human trafficking victims detected globally. Gender violence is a worldwide issue which won’t be resolved overnight or ever to the extreme that we want it to. What we can do is  recognize the victims who have lived through those experiences, especially women like Everard who deserve to be remembered. 

Men shouldn’t feel offended when women are scared to walk in front of them. They should instead feel a need to try and make them feel safe. They should ask themselves why women even feel unsafe in the first place. We obviously know that “not all men” oppress women, but it’s enough men that do to make millions of girls globally feel afraid.  

Boys won’t be boys. Boys will be what they are taught. If you teach them to hurt, that’s what they’ll do. If you teach them to stay silent, then they will. Masculinity doesn’t take the shape of making something about yourself just because you’ve never acted like others of your own have. Playing devil’s advocate won’t get anybody anywhere, and it definitely won’t bring back the thousands of femicide victims, undo all rape cases or prevent a police officer from taking the life of an innocent woman. 

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