How we can change the conversation around women's safety - Laura Collins, YEP Editor

Step by step, I could feel the shadowy figure getting closer and closer behind me.

Monday, 15th March 2021, 6:00 am
Everyone has a responsibility to each other. Picture: Adobe Stock

Again, I picked up my pace just that little bit quicker.

The shadowy figure won’t notice, I tell myself, as I squeeze my hand tightly around the set of keys in my pocket.

Just keep your head down and keep on walking.

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My heart starts beating faster and faster, louder and louder.

Don’t panic, I tell myself, it’s nothing to worry about just keep on going.

I wish I’d have taken a taxi instead so I could have been dropped off at my front door rather than catching a train and having to walk back home.

I can see my front door staring at me but I just carry on walking. He can’t know where I live so in my mind I’m going to walk around the top corner of the street to throw him off the scent.

Phew, he’s crossed the road and is going down a different street.

My heart stops pounding and I quickly pull my keys out of my pocket, open the door as fast as I can and put on the lights. I made it - home, safe and sound. Relief.

I know I’m not alone in this experience. There are so many women who go through this exact experience day in, day out.

It’s almost as though it has been hard-wired into our minds from a young age that women shouldn’t be out alone at night.

We’ve all been there at the end of a night out, when your friends have made that throw away comment as you say goodbye to make sure you text or call as soon as you get home.

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Even something as simple as setting off to drive somewhere on my own - my husband always reminds me to drive carefully and to let him know when I get there safely.

The issue of women’s safety has hit the national headlines and so many ladies have taken to social media to share their experiences when it comes to personal safety threats.

Many have shared their own truths about harassment and the anxiety they face on something as simple as a walk home.

Everyone should feel safe, no matter what their age or gender.

But it’s a sad reality that for many women this isn’t the case. And we can start to change that conversation with a fundamental shift in society and the way that we think. The first action that so many people can do is just to listen and understand the experiences of others.

Just something as simple as reading this very column and taking a moment to think about how your loved ones - regardless of gender - feel around their personal safety.

And fundamentally, it is looking at changing deep-rooted attitudes around this especially the misogyny that surrounds women’s daily lives and “limitations”.

We need to take a long hard look at ourselves. This is not about portioning blame but about rewiring our collective thinking.

Everyone has a responsibility to each other to ensure we can all feel safe in a city like Leeds.

We owe it to anyone who has been a victim. Their voices must be heard.

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