Being brought up to live in fear

even if it is so ingrained that we don’t think of it that way

As a girl, I was brought up knowing the world was a dangerous place. I was told we should really play in groups rather than wandering off on our own. That we shouldn’t speak with strangers or accept sweets from strangers. Especially men. That we should be home before it got dark. 

I knew I had to adhere to these rules as my mum was anxious and didn’t want anything to happen to me.  So I also became anxious, vigilant and hypersensitive. Maybe if I, as a girl, stayed prepared for the worst it wouldn’t happen.

I wonder how many of us grew up with an underlying anxiety? An anxiety that we could all be victim of something horrible because we are female. And we have to be prepared for the worst. What is this doing to our nervous system?

As a young woman, a teenager, wanting to explore and be out with friends I knew the same rules for little girls also applied to me as a young woman.

In life before mobile phones, I had to be home at a certain time. Usually way too early for my liking. I was encouraged to be in a group, going to and from parties with friends. Preferably not alone. Remembering to be vigilant. And by being vigilant becoming anxious and hypersensitive. Walk on well light road, busy roads… even take a longer journey to stay safe. Because something might happen. Someone might want to harm me.

Growing a little older, me and my friends were very aware of having to keep an eye on each other. Making notes of taxi number plates – just in case. Walking on the well light and busy roads. Staying over with our friends after a night out because walking home alone was always a bit of a potential risk. Even during the day, or being on a bus, so many situations were we have felt potential for danger. Being catcalled, or approached in a way that felt threatening or simply overwhelming.

Even now. After meeting friends during the day we have been so ingrained with potential danger that we text when we have arrived home safely. I don’t know any men doing this. 

We have all walked the longer route, taking a different kind of transport because it felt safer, been vigilant noticing people and signposts on our walks. Not going out late at night in the darkness – on our own. We have had our keys in our hands – just in case. We have made real and fake phone calls. 

It is so normal for us that it is rarely questioned. It’s now a habit.

We never had that freedom. So it wasn’t taken away from us.

The freedom of walking where and whatever time we want (even wearing what we want) is something that we never had. We never had that freedom. So it wasn’t taken away from us. It was never a lived experience. Because there was always fear.

Because we have grown up knowing that the worst may happen and we have to do everything to prevent it. 

We could all be Sarah Everard. Or one of the many women who get assaulted, kidnapped, murdered… 

This horrific event is still under investigation. We don’t know what, why, how it all happened.

It triggered me (and most women). Because this is what we have all been brought up knowing might happen – because we are girls because we are women. 

And I wonder how this can ever change? That women feel safe. That we don’t need to question what we want to do and when. That we can go for walks or runs on our own. That we can sit in nature, in a park, forest, or walk in the woodland, on a busy urban street or in a suburban neighbourhood, on our own and feel safe. 

All that fear, anxiety and hypersensitivity is in our body and mind. This event certainly triggered all these layers of emotions, of conditioning, of my own experiences and those of my friends.

There are layers and layers. Dimensions on how to address this. To heal this.

There is so much to heal

Yes, I know not all men are dangerous. I know that this issue not only applies to cis-women. I know the horrible statistics of violence and young black men. And that women are violent too. There is so much to heal. And this has to include the male population. It has to be part of education and culture.

“We talk about how many women were raped last year, not how many men raped women. We talk about how many girls in a school district were harassed last year, not about how many boys harassed girls. We talk about how many teenage girls in the state of Vermont got pregnant last year, rather than how many boys and men impregnated teenage girls.”

 Jackson Katz 

Sarah Everard was someone who lived and moved about in a place I know very well. An area I lived in for many years, she walked the streets I walked. She is someone I could have known, or seen in a coffee shop, on the street. I most likely know someone who knows her or know someone who does. So it feels close.

My heart and prayers are with her loved ones. 

My personal musings… my way of processing, feeling, experiencing. Writing it all down is one way I process and digest. Along with yoga, breathing, moving, walking, swimming, watching the waves. Writing shifts things. It also gives me a different perspective. Even now it is changing. Changing to anger, and different feelings and sensations. Maybe that will be another blog. Or perhaps just writing that no one will ever see. Thanks for reading.