Opinion: Scared of the Dark

By Lacey Mannell

I’m sure many of you will be familiar with the panic that sets in when you’re walking home in the dark, and the person in front of you starts to slow their pace. Perhaps they’re looking down at their phone to read a text message, or maybe it’s a ruse to get you to catch up with them, where they suddenly grab you and throw you into a van parked conveniently on the corner.

It’s like a fight or flight situation, except all you can do is carry on walking whilst your heartbeat can be felt in your fingertips.

I recently made a voting poll on Instagram, where most of my audience are teenage girls from Plymouth, asking if people are scared to walk home alone in the dark. 79% of voters on the poll said they were, 38 out of 48, with most of the voters being female.

The question is, why should people (women and teenage girls in particular) feel afraid to walk in their local area at night? Is it some societal rule that’s been hammered into them by the constant mantra of ‘stranger danger’?

I asked some of the individuals who voted in my poll why they’re afraid to walk alone in the dark, and a common theme was the fear that they’d be murdered, raped or kidnapped. A lot of this fear stemmed from news stories, and also from their own interactions.

I created another poll surrounding the idea of catcalling and being approached by strangers. 89% of people on the poll said they’d been catcalled, shouted/beeped at or talked to inappropriately on the street — that’s 41 out of 46 people, and the majority of those that voted were 16 year old girls like myself.

Now, some might feel flattered at somebody shouting about how attractive they look, but for most girls, it makes them rather uncomfortable.

This gives you an idea of why, perhaps, a lot of people are afraid to walk home in the dark. I myself have been catcalled and approached by a man on the bus when the top deck had near enough emptied. It can be quite frightening, and you usually always assume the worst possible scenarios. Maybe he’ll get off at the same stop? Maybe he’ll chase after you?

Girls just simply don’t feel safe because of the environments they’re placed in, where some individuals think it’s okay to shout at young girls when they’re just trying to walk home.

Where the news is filled with stories of missing persons, kidnappings and rapes until the reaction is no longer one of shock and disgust, but rather something that’s become familiar.

Girls should feel safe walking home in the dark, or walking the streets in general, without being catcalled. And it’s not something that can be fixed by the council nor the government, and especially not teenage girls themselves, but by individuals. The individuals who think it’s okay to behave in a disrespectful way towards women.

News flash: it’s not okay to comment on somebody’s body from your car window.

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