Are you scared to walk alone at night? Has someone you don't know approached you or tried to touch you on public transport? No? Chances are you're not a woman.
Women don't feel safe in public spaces — and it's up to men to do something about it
TLDRDo you know how to make a weapon out of your keys and a fist?
No? Chances are you're not a woman.
If you haven't experienced it yourself, it's hard to imagine what it must be like to face unwanted sexual advances, threats or violence just for walking down the street.
But for many Australian women, it's a daily reality. When Plan International surveyed hundreds of young women in Sydney, they found that nine in 10 felt unsafe at night.
In many cases, the underlying fear is the behaviour of men.
If you're a man, you might be thinking, "I would never do that". Even so, we all have a role in improving the situation for the women we know, and those we don't."Without doubt, at the heart of harassment is a deep disrespect or disregard for women as equals, as something more than an object, a body, a sexual being," says Susanne Legena, Plan Australia's chief executive officer.
YOUTUBEMen vs Women: How often do you feel unsafe in public?How to be a better bystander against harassment
Many women are harassed in the most public of places, like public transport or a busy city street. Often there are witnesses, and often they do nothing.
In a 2018 report, Plan noted: "For the most part, witnesses just stand by: they do little or nothing to help, and girls and young women feel that there is little point in reporting harassment to the authorities because they believe the authorities have neither the will nor the power to do anything about it."
So why exactly are people so reluctant to intervene when they're seeing women being harassed?
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Claire Tatyzo, who runs bystander intervention workshops for YWCA Australia, says there are a few things going on.
Firstly, there's something called bystander apathy. It's the sense we have in group situations that someone else will intervene, when often no-one does.
In some situations, intervening may feel unsafe. (We'll get to how to handle these moments shortly.) And, sometimes, people are afraid of reading the room wrong and looking silly, Ms Tatyzo says.
Instead of giving yourself reasons to avoid intervening, think about the reasons you should do something, she says.
"We really do encourage people to think twice … Obviously you need to consider safety, but there's often a good reason why you should intervene," Ms Tatyzo says.
Men confront and deal with their abusive actions that have driven their families apart and left a trail of hurt.
Here are a few practical ideas for intervening in problematic or questionable situations.
1. Call out poor behaviour
If you witness poor behaviour, call it out. It might be a sexist joke. It might be someone harassing a woman at a bar.
Often, you don't have to say much. It could simply be something like "That's not funny, mate" or "That's not OK", two phrases mentioned in a recent Victorian campaign.
"It might shut it down, or it might make that person think twice before doing it again. It might also lead to a discussion about why that [behaviour] is harmful," Ms Tatyzo says.
Family and domestic violence support services:
2. Create an interruption
- 1800 Respect national helpline: 1800 737 732
- Women's Crisis Line: 1800 811 811
- Men's Referral Service: 1300 766 491
- Lifeline (24-hour crisis line): 131 114
- Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277
By interrupting an interaction, you can provide an opportunity for a woman to leave or get some help. It doesn't have to be confrontational either.
Here are a few approaches you can use.
3. Get help
- The "old friend" method: One man in one of Ms Tatyzo's workshops saw a woman being harassed at a bus stop. He went up to her, pretending to know her, and said, "Hey, Sally" which created an opening for her to leave.
- The "I'm lost" method: Another non-confrontational approach is to create an interruption by asking for directions.
- The "checking in" method: It's obvious, but if you spot someone in a potentially problematic situation, you could ask them if they're OK.
In many situations, the best thing you can do if you spot something concerning is to get help from the professionals.
"It could be police, security, or if you are on public transport, notifying the bus driver that something's going on. That is something we would certainly encourage," Ms Tatyzo says.
We'd love to hear from men and women on this topic. Share your experiences and advice with firstname.lastname@example.org
IMAGEThere are a number of ways you can defuse situations, and it doesn't have to involve confrontation.(Unsplash: Josh Wilburne)Put yourself in women's shoes
When Plan International created a map documenting women's experiences in Sydney, the response was overwhelming.
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Hundreds of women marked locations where they had been made to feel unsafe, where they were harassed, where men masturbated in front of them and, in some cases, where they were sexually assaulted.
Often these incidents happened in public places, or places where many men have never been made to feel unsafe.
There's a gap between men's experiences of these places and those of women — and it's important to keep in mind. While you might not feel unsafe walking home from the train at night, it's quite possible the woman walking in front of you does, especially if you're only few steps behind her and wearing dark clothes.
So what can you do help? Start by putting yourself in women's shoes. Here's a few ideas to get you started, courtesy of a group of Sydney women who worked with Plan.
Don't blame the victim
- Keep your distance. If you're closely walking behind a woman on a poorly lit street at night, you're quite possibly terrifying her. Leave plenty of space or even cross the road if you can.
- Don't run up quickly behind someone. If you're out for a jog, don't run up quickly behind people. It can freak them out.
- Don't stare. Staring makes women feel unsafe. It's also just creepy.
- Keep your comments to yourself. Yelling things at women from your car isn't funny, complimentary or harmless. It's harassment.
Women are often told that by wearing certain clothes, going to certain places or drinking alcohol they are inviting harassment; that is their fault; that they "weren't being safe".
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"It is a really dangerous framing [of the issue], and we have to question why we don't put the emphasis on the people who are perpetrating the behaviour. Why don't we say, 'That has to stop'?""It can be very damaging for people who have had these kinds of experiences. It reinforces their sense of powerlessness and it reinforces their pain," says Ms Legena.
It's a narrative that plays out in public — for instance, in comments by police after the death of Eurydice Dixon in Melbourne — and in private for many Australian women.
IMAGEWhen women are harassed, they're often told they shouldn't have been out, they shouldn't been drinking or that they were "asking for it".(Unsplash: Anubhav Saxena)
"Girls were saying [to us], 'I am actively not going out, not doing certain things, because if something happens to me, I know that I'll be blamed'," Ms Legena says.
It's like telling men, after a man has been punched in a pub, that they shouldn't go out at night, adds Ms Tatyzo.
Instead of questioning what a woman was wearing — or what she had to drink — ask yourself why men feel entitled to treat women so poorly. Ask your girlfriend or wife, your friend or your colleagues what you can do to help.
"[Women] have a right to be everywhere we want to be," Ms Legena says.
"If this kind of behaviour is curtailing our freedom, that's got to be something that as a society we say, 'That's not on.'"
TESTOSTERONE, MANSPREADING AND HEAVY FOOTSTEPS SCARES ME **GULP SOYLENT**
Also, lol, this noodle armed bitch, Patrick Wright.
I'm sure he enjoys being pegged while told how much of a muhsogginistic monster he is
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