Women and girls feel unsafe at work, university, at home and even while walking home at night. The recent femicide cases of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, as well as an increase in domestic violence and sexual assault against women, has sparked a discussion regarding women’s safety. This post will shed some light on this critical topic to show how important your safety as a university student is.

The Problem

Gender-based violence occurs in both private and public places, ranging from unwanted sexual remarks and gestures to rape and the severe deaths of women, known as femicide. According to the Office for National Statistics, 207 women were killed in the United Kingdom in 2020. This shows that a woman is killed every three days.

Consent And When To Say No

If you find yourself in a scenario you don’t want to be in, say no. Know your rights as “No” should always mean “No”. Remember that your thoughts and feelings might change at any time so your consent can be withdrawn.

Why Does Gender-Based Violence like Femicide Happen?

To prevent gender-based violence, we must look back and address the source of the problem. Gender inequality is the root of the problem. Gender norms and cultural standards exist for both men and women, and this serves as a trigger for femicide.

Rebecca Dillingham, a student from the University of Reading feels that “It is important to specify it in that way because the term ‘violence against women’ sounds passive by not actively mentioning the gender of the vast majority of perpetrators. Without this specification, the onus is once again put on women, as though it’s up to women to ‘not get hurt’ by men instead of men actively not hurting women.”

Students have become fearful of going about their regular lives and rework their decisions daily to feel safer.

Laura Nicolaou-Jones, a student from the University of Exeter said “I don’t think I have ever felt safe, the threat has always been there. Every choice I make is carefully weighed calculated. Your mind is constantly trying to figure out the way to safety as if anything can really protect me.”

To prevent sad tragedies like femicide, we must all work together. There is a lot that needs to be done across all sectors to make a major difference across the country.

Rebecca goes on to mention that women’s safety is a…

“complex issue requiring reform in many areas but one key aspect, it seems to me, is education, which is something universities could play a bigger part in. It is imperative that education on understanding the dynamics of consent and respecting boundaries is offered, and beyond that, a breaking down of the damaging attitudes held about women.”

Organisations

Several organisations are conscious of women’s safety. Unfortunately, as these organisations are underfunded, it is up to us, the general public, to support them.

Organisations students should look into and support:

  • ActionAid’s VAWG work to create sustainable and long term change for women
  • EVAW Coalition is a group ‘women’s support services, researchers, activists, survivors’ who work to end violence against women and girls.

Safety When Walking On Campus Or At Night

Students have been encouraged to dress correctly or change their shoes when walking at night, but this advice is centred on the victims and their actions. The actual issue is the perpetrators of these crimes, not the victims. Many students like Laura feel “anxious” and “scared” when they walk home. There are a few things you can do to feel comfortable travelling home late at night or after lectures particularly now that the days are becoming darker.

Remember, if you feel unsafe or witness sexual harassment, then text the British Transport Police at 61016 or in an emergency contact 999.

Personal safety recommendations…

Location Sharing
  • Find My Friends is a great app for Apple users. You can track and share your live location with your housemates, friends and family members.
  • Life360 is an app available to Apple and Android users. You can build a circle of friends to record your live location.
Apps And Numbers To Call

There are several great apps available to help you stay safe:

  • If you need a walk home want to speak to someone as you do call Strut Safe at 0333 3350 026
  • WalkSafe is an app that allows you to plan a safe route home.
  • If you are a victim of domestic violence, call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline at 0808 2000 247
Emergency Calls
  • If you have an Apple iPhone 8 or later there is an Emergency SOS function that can share your real-time location with the police or medical services. Press and hold the side button and one of the volume buttons then swipe your fingertips across the SOS slider. This will make the emergency call.
  • You can use the iPhone health app to add emergency contacts. The individuals you select will be alerted if an emergency call is sent.
  • On Samsung phones, you can use the emergency mode to send an alert, activate your flashlight, and make emergency calls. You may also phone a specific emergency contact and share your location.
  • Other smartphone lock screens should now include an emergency call button, so double-check yours.
Purchase A Safety Alarm

Personal alarms are useful for drawing attention if you feel like you’re in danger. It is simple to use; pull the keyring to trigger the alarm. Small enough to carry with you and attach it to keys with the included key ring. They are readily available online for a low price of £4!

What You Can Do To Spread Awareness 

  • Tell your own story and listen to others.
  • Donate to groups that fight to end violence against women.
  • Use social media to spread the word and join groups that are fighting for justice.
  • Keep an eye on and help your peers if you sense something wrong.
  • Raise these concerns with your Student Unions to see what they can do to help make a difference at your university.

Final Thoughts

We hope that this post continues to open up the conversation around safety and has given you some suggestions on how to keep safe at university.