Text Me When You’re Home

Text me when you’re home – five words every woman has sent or received as a text when heading home in the evenings. It doesn’t even take a moment’s thought. It’s been second nature since we were teenagers.

I’ve sometimes forgotten to reply to these texts, distracted by the warmth of my house on return home, the desperation to get into some comfy pyjamas and raid the fridge for those alcohol-soaking carbs. But I’ve always appreciated the extra text that sometimes follows: “Did you get home okay?” After thanking them and talking about how much we enjoyed the night, we continue on with our lives until the next night out.

Like the rest of the world, I woke up today feeling devastated and angry about the news of Sarah Everard. The nature of her case has hit close to home for women everywhere. Sarah did all the things we as women get told to do – take the well-lit routes home, call someone, leave your friend’s house early, wear bright coloured clothing, and yet it still wasn’t enough. It’s never enough. And we never know who’s going to be the next victim who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Growing up in a small village, I had the privilege of feeling safe walking home at night after an 11pm finish at the pub I worked at. It wasn’t until I moved to a city for university at 18 that I started to think about my street safety more. I always remember the stories we’d hear about a student being raped in a park on campus and we were always told to never walk through this park at night. By day, families would sit having picnics on the grass and play tennis on the courts, so it was hard to imagine that this beautiful park could pose such danger.

As a student, I would avoid paying for a taxi home if I was going home by myself, and I remember being told off by my friends countless times for walking home alone from the student’s union. It was only a 20 minute walk, on a well-lit route that was often filled with other students drunkenly making their way home. But she was right – you can sadly never be too careful.

But then next came the taxi scares. We’d hear stories about women getting into taxis alone and being driven to remote locations, unable to get out as the doors locked from the inside. Sadly, myself and friends at uni all shared similar stories with each other about sexual harrassment and assault.

As I got older, I learned tactics to ‘minimise’ my chance of being attacked – walking with keys in my knuckles, watching videos online about how to get out of someone’s grip on my arm and wearing trainers on nights out so I could run home. Again, it’s not enough. It’s not a case of getting older and wiser. When I was travelling after university, I wanted to meet up with a friend in another hostel in Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. I was travelling with my male friend, but he was ill and wanted to stop in. I thought walking down a busy, well-lit strip would be fine, as the hostel was only a few kilometres away. Yet in the space of 20 minutes, I was groped by a passerby on a motorcycle, and then cornered by two men offering to give me directions. I instantly headed back to my hostel in tears, beating myself up for ‘putting myself in that situation’. After telling my friend at the other hostel what happened, he apologised for not thinking to come meet me and walk me there. How nice it must feel to just not have to think.

I got annoyed at myself again a year later when I decided to take a quick route through an underpass to meet some friends at the pub. This was the same underpass I used every day to get to work, which in the daytime is full of people heading to work. But at around 9pm at night, I was catcalled by a man in a dark hoodie who asked where I was going. Fight or flight kicked in and I ran as fast as I could, filled with fear as I heard his quick footsteps behind me. Luckily I spotted a police van around the corner and waved them down. The police were great and took a report from me and we drove around the block trying to find the man. We never found him, but I was so grateful to the police for being so cooperative and that nothing happened.

I know some may argue that situations like these are putting yourself at risk, but this shouldn’t even be up for discussion. One of my friends once told me how she always makes sure to never put herself in those situations, but what if those situations are just us simply living? Assault and rape can happen anywhere in the world and at any time. Women still need to get to work, see their friends and family and travel. We can’t have a male chaperone us at every beck and call, and we shouldn’t bloody need to.

These are just a couple of standout moments in what must be over 100 moments where I’ve felt fearful on the streets. And sadly we all know it won’t be the last.

How many more women are going to become victims through no fault of their own? For just living their lives? Something has to change.

Are You A Beaver? Cos Dam – Tinder Tales.

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I’ve recently made the mistake of getting the ‘app’ ‘Tinder’ again. I say again, as I had this app briefly during my second year of university, but soon deleted it after my friends caused mayhem on my account. For those who don’t know, Tinder is a dating app, self described as ‘the fun way to connect with new and interesting people around you. Swipe right to like or left to pass. If someone likes you back, it’s a match!’ Sounds simple enough.

I first heard about this app at the beginning of 2014, after seeing a couple of my housemates swiping to and fro in front of the TV most evenings. We would often go on each other’s accounts, unleashing witty and crude comebacks to cheesy pick up lines from males, usually along the lines of ‘Are you a beaver? Cos dam’. It seemed harmless enough, and so I decided to get it myself. I soon realised that I didn’t quite get the point of this app, after constantly swiping right just because someone had a pet in their picture or had dressed up as the nerdy character Moss from the TV show ‘The IT Crowd’. This, in addition to my friends deciding to swipe ‘yes’ for everyone that popped up one drunken night, led to over 100 matches and a phone that never stopped going off. We eventually all got bored and the app was soon deleted.

A few days ago however, I decided to get it again, after hearing a friend having talked about using it recently. They also told me that they knew couples who had successfully met and started dating through Tinder. Why not try using it properly this time? I thought, you never know. So I tried to be pickier this time around, and I only swiped right for a couple of people before starting a conversation with someone. Let’s call him Tim. Tim seemed nice enough, had similar interests and we kept a conversation up for the rest of the day. Suddenly at the end of the day, he started asking me to send him photos so he could ‘see what it is he’s dealing with’. Although I knew that Tinder had a reputation for being a ‘sex app’, it’s safe to say that this is not what I was expecting on my first day of using it. I politely declined, and made excuses about going to bed, planning to end the conversation for good. However, the next day I woke up to a blunt message from Tim: ‘Guess we’re not talking anymore then’, before stating that he ‘was looking for something physical and nothing long term’. I responded telling him that I didn’t even know what I was looking for yet, as I’ve only had the app for one day, but it all felt a bit much what he was asking me, and that I was sorry, but wasn’t interested. This is when things took a turn for the worse. Tim started to get really angry at me, accusing me of ‘leading him on’, and telling me that I ‘should have been honest from the beginning’.

As well as being extremely baffled as to how I led him on, I was also now pretty angry. Why do some guys feel that they have the right to ask girls they have never met to send them explicit photographs of themselves? And why then do they feel that it is acceptable to have a go at the girl because it is thrown back in their face?

This is pretty much how I responded to Tim; I told him I was sick of guys expecting girls to do things for them and thinking it’s okay to then harass and insult them once they are denied. I blocked him after this, so fortunately I don’t know what torrent of further verbal abuse he had in store, but I’m gad to be rid of him.

So after two attempts at ‘tindering’, it’s safe to say that I’ve given up, yet again. As I’m aware, many people are successful on this dating app, and maybe it is possible if you persevere. Maybe this app is also for the thick skinned, who are better at ignoring or shooting down the idiotic, egotistical males. I don’t know whether I ‘led’ Tim on or not. Maybe I should have been more explicit in saying ‘no’ rather than skirting around the subject and trying to ignore him. However, I still stand by the fact that no one deserves to be shouted at simply for refusing to expose themselves to a complete stranger.

Murdered By My Boyfriend

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I’ve just finished watching BBC’s shocking drama ‘Murdered by My Boyfriend’, which tells the true story of a seventeen year old girl, who becomes a victim of domestic violence. This sixty minute drama gives us an insight into Ashley and Reece’s four year abusive relationship; from their very first meeting right up until Reece brutally murders Ashley with his fists and an ironing board. Poignant and gripping, it’s safe to say that this drama left me feeling emotional and physically sick, and spurned me on to write my first blog post. At the end of the programme, we are left with the words “It took 4 years for Ashley to die. In that time, at least 229 other women in Britain were murdered as a result of domestic violence.” This shocking statistic reiterates just how common domestic violence continues to be, and highlights how it can often go on unnoticed for years. In this drama, Ashley’s friends continuously beg her to leave Reece, and the police are frequently called by neighbours, friends, and Ashley herself. Yet her death was still not prevented. So why was this case? And why are so many women still being murdered as a result of domestic violence?

Women’s Aid suggest that one reason for this is because domestic violence is still a ‘hidden crime’, with many women often attempting to hide signs of abuse from their friends and family. They propose a possible list of reasons, including self-blaming and fear, both of which are portrayed in ‘Murdered by My Boyfriend’. At several points during this drama, Ashley tells her friend that she provoked Reece, and continues to defend him because he’s a ‘good father’ to their daughter. This therefore raises a major issue of domestic abuse, that leads to many cases going unnoticed, or being unreported.

In particular for me, it was scary how much this drama resonated familiar moments from past relationships. Fortunately, I have never been a victim of physical domestic violence, however I have been a victim of verbal abuse by an ex boyfriend, which often made me fearful for my physical safety. According to domesticviolence.org, “verbal domestic abuse is one of the most serious forms of domestic violence”, and can have damaging psychological effects for the victim. During this one relationship, I was constantly criticized by my boyfriend, and was subjected to name calling, swearing and disrespect. As is common with most victims, I blamed myself for everything, and would continue to focus on the positives of the relationship, despite feeling utterly miserable. One example in particular of my ex boyfriend turning his bad behaviour around onto me, was when he would flirt and meet up with other girls behind my back. Understandably, this led me to become more paranoid, and I would go through his phone where I continued to find inappropriate messages from girls and I would bring it up with him. He would then shout at me, and made the argument about me going through his phone, which is still a violation of privacy yes, but does not justify his bad behaviour. This situation was mirrored exactly in ‘Murdered by My Boyfriend’, when Ashley found texts from another girl on Reece’s phone, informing her of his affair. Yet, similarly to my ex boyfriend, Reece turned the situation onto Ashley, and reminded her how ‘well he treated her’, bringing to light a further issue experienced by victims; feeling guilty. During this moment, Reece constantly interrogates Ashley, asking her ‘do I give you money?’ ‘Do I babysit while you’re out?’ before arguing that he treats her ‘like a princess’. Chillingly, this reflects my past situation with my ex, with him using the exact same line ‘I treat you like a princess’, in an attempt to prove how well he treated me when I accused him of treating me badly. Therefore a major problem felt by all victims of domestic abuse is that of self-blame and guilt, caused by a cruel psychological entrapment from the perpetrator.

Thankfully, as I said, I was never subjected to abuse on a more serious level, and I can only empathise to some extent with the poor women who become victims to domestic abuse, and frighteningly, death. This drama was very powerful in its message of domestic abuse, as it demonstrates the harmful effects of both verbal and physical violence; which according to The Guardian, “More than 1.1 million or 7% of women and 720,000 or 4% of men have been victims of…in the past year”. Shockingly, domestic abuse is still one of the most commonly reported crimes in the UK, and not everyone is lucky enough to escape from an abusive relationship. Ashley was only 17 when she met Reece, a hardworking college student with her whole life ahead of her. A life that was painfully cut short by someone she loved. How many more victims will there be?