What do you use your car keys for - opening your car, locking your car, holding your house keys with them? They’re actually also used as a self-defense mechanism by women all over the world. Holding the keys in between their fingers with a tight grip makes women feel secure that, in case they are attacked, there is a tool they can use to protect themselves. The safety concern of women has always been present, yet the situation isn’t improving. We shouldn’t need to clench the keys between our knuckles, carry pepper spray in our purses, or check underneath our car before getting in. This has become our mental checklist before leaving buildings, but it shouldn’t be; we shouldn’t be living in a constant state of fear.
On March 3rd, Sarah Everard was abducted at 9 PM in London while walking back home from her friend’s house. The route should have taken her 50 minutes at most, but she was later found dead. Police officer Wayne Couzens was arrested and charged with Everard’s kidnapping and murder and his job at London’s Metropolitan Police allowed him custody of a gun. Everard’s case has created a rising upheaval from women around the world who are speaking up about sexual harassment, sexual assault, and intimidation they experience throughout daily life. As survivors continue to speak forward as part of the #MeToo movement, people are realizing that they have been sexually abused before, but never realized. Women are sharing tips on how to keep themselves safe in case of an uncomfortable or dangerous situation. But, that isn’t enough. We need to educate men - co-workers, brothers, sons, male friends - on how to create a welcoming and safe environment for women. Speak up if you hear others talking about women in an insulting manner, don’t whistle or comment on her physical features in a sexual way, cross the street if you’re behind her, and keep other men accountable for their actions.
Individuals who are coming out with their incidents are not following a trend, but rather sharing their voice and support to survivors who aren’t comfortable with voicing their experiences, to let them know that they aren’t alone. Society makes excuses like “she shouldn’t be wearing that”, “she shouldn’t be out that late at night”, or the common “not all men are dangerous”. Why are people more concerned about what she was wearing that night versus why the perpetrator was even plotting her murder? Why are people more concerned about why she was out late at night when every single person should be able to walk safely at any time? These are simply excuses for turning the attention away from the victim and blaming them for getting assaulted - this is one of the reasons why many victims are afraid to ask for help.
We know not all men are dangerous, but it’s all women who are at risk; 1 out of 6 women experience sexual assault. How would you react if your mother, sister, or daughter was sexually assaulted? The reality is that the numbers are so high even without accounting for unreported cases, where she may have already been assaulted.
We are tired of carrying our car keys in between our knuckles, of carrying pepper spray, of looking behind our shoulders every second while walking in fear. It’s not bad to be prepared, but it’s bad we’re always paranoid that we won’t be able to reach our destination safely and comfortably. We’re simply asking for respect, to be treated like human beings, to feel safe. We should be able to walk wherever we want at any time of the day wearing whatever we want without being sexually attacked or even murdered.
Car keys are meant to open our cars, not as a self-defense tool. We need the day our society changes enough where our car keys are in our pockets, not gripped tightly between our knuckles.