Updated: Apr 18, 2021
This is not what I planned to write as my next post. But the horrendous case around Sarah Everard has just played on my mind so heavily. As a woman I relate entirely to feeling intimidated walking outside alone. But as a new mum I realise there is an increased feeling of vulnerability for those of us going out with a pram, containing the most important thing in our lives. We can't avoid taking our babies out in the pram or our children to the park. No woman should have to avoid going out for fear of attack.
Going out with my pram since I've had my baby, I have on several occasions felt uncomfortable about men around me. I have crossed over to the other side of the road, and I have stopped and pretended to be looking at my phone, so as to not have somebody walking so close behind me. I I hadn't realised until now that very early on in taking baby out in the pram, I thought to myself, what could I use as a weapon if I needed it? How quickly could I pick baby up and run if I had to? What would I do if somebody attacked?
This is not the first time I have experienced this. When I lived in the city years ago, I hated the walk from the train station to my house. I frequently felt intimidated by people walking too closely behind me, people who sped up when I sped up, paused when I paused, crossed the road when I crossed. At the extreme, I once had a car mount the pavement in front of me while walking home alone at night, but I managed to run away. At the extreme, I once had a car mount the pavement in front of me while walking home alone at night, but I managed to run away.
I don't think there is a single woman out there who can't relate to the #MeToo movement. I remember aged around 17, going on one of my first nights out in town with my friends. We shared a taxi home, and I ended up being the last drop-off, and on my own in the taxi. As soon as the last friend had closed the door behind her, the driver pulled away and said "You do not have enough money for this taxi". Up until this point we had not had any discussion. He had not said how much the fair was going to be. I had not said how much money I had. I was painfully shy at this age and politely questioned "Pardon?" to which he repeated "You do not have enough money for the fare", this time adding "We need to take you to a cashpoint". I remember that feeling of sickness rising up from inside and firmly saying "I do not need any more money". He replied "We will go to the cashpoint", to which I repeated "No I have enough money please take me where I have asked". He was silent as we approached a roundabout and I remember the sheer panic thinking was he going to turn in a different direction to my home.
Fortunately he didn't. He carried on with the correct route. At this point I got my phone out pretended to dial and said "Hi Dad, I am in the taxi by myself, we are currently on x road, I should be home in 5-minutes time, thanks for waiting up for me". I pretended to hang up the phone. For the rest of the journey I was panicking at every junction with fear that he was going to go off in a different direction. I lived in a relatively rural place - there were plenty of quiet roads around. When we arrived outside my house he tried to make a joke. I awkwardly paid the fare, jumped out and felt the biggest wave of relief come over me.
Despite my fake phone call, my Mum was in fact waiting up for me, and I instantly told her what had happened. My Dad was furious that this had happened to me and asked if I had got the driver's name or the registration plate. I had not. I hadn't thought that far ahead. I was unable to report that driver.
Bringing this back to my journey as a Mum, this has made me think just how many of us will be; uncomfortable at best, scared at worse, to be walking out with our children. I'm lucky - I live in a nice enough area, and I am super close (socially-distanced close!) with my Mum and I am frequently in contact to say where abouts I am. But there are Mum's out there living in crime ridden areas, with no support network checking they are ok. I feel such sympathy for them. We need to look out for each other where we can.
One thing I found useful years ago (that is still helpful now) is advice from The Suzy Lamplugh Trust. I have found this link for safety advice when out and about - https://www.suzylamplugh.org/personal-safety-out-and-about - might be worth a read or passing on to anyone you know. I take little precautions- I don't go out at the same time everyday, I change my routes, I keep people informed of my whereabouts. I shouldn't have to do this, but it makes me feel less vulnerable.
I wish I could end this post on a more positive note, but there is no happy ending here. I hope that our babies, our children grow up to be better. To help make the world a kinder, safer place. For now, I'll just keep going. We all will.