A girl walks home alone at night... and still isn’t safe in 2019
13 March 2019 at 12:05 am
Tiana’s house is a five-minute walk from the train station, but when she’s walking home from work alone at night, that five minutes seems like a lifetime.
“I feel like there’s a target on my back, and I’m always very aware of my surroundings,” Tiana told Pro Bono News.
If she’s on her own – walking down her empty street at night, or through the busy CBD streets – she doesn’t feel safe. She’s not alone in this feeling.
Mission Australia’s latest report, released on Wednesday, found nearly half of young women surveyed felt unsafe walking alone after dark, and one in five young women reported concerns about personal safety.
Compared to their male counterparts, 46.6 per cent of young females said they felt “unsafe” or “very unsafe” in their communities when walking home alone after dark, compared to 18.1 per cent of young males.
For Tiana, who was interviewed as part of the survey, the feeling of being unsafe comes from constantly being told it was her responsibility to protect herself from danger.
“As a young woman I feel like I shouldn’t walk around by myself because you never know what’s going to come at you, and being told that makes it almost feel like it’s my fault if something does happen,” she said.
“It feels as if it’s become the norm that women should be worried about their safety, rather than men being worried about how they are acting in public.”
She added that her four brothers never received the same “personal safety talks” she got from her parents.
“My parents were always telling me to be careful when I went out, and I know that my brothers never got that same treatment, or were told those same things,” she said.
“There are definitely some systematic ideas that have to change.”
The data, collated from 30,000 responses of people aged between 15 and 19, uncovered substantial differences in men’s and women’s aspirations, values and concerns, as well as their understanding of safety and trust.
“Many of these differences will have long-term detrimental outcomes for females across a range of life domains, including education, health and employment,” the report said.
Young women were more likely to report “personal safety” as a concern (21.6 per cent) than their male peers (14.3 per cent).
Twice the proportion of young females also reported security and safety as a potential barrier to moving out of home in the future, compared to young males (28.3 per cent compared with 14.2 per cent).
Females also reported higher proportions of personal concern about coping with stress, mental health and school and study problems than male respondents.
The report said young females were disadvantaged and cut off from the same opportunities as men because of these statistics.
“Consequently, females are less likely to be able to access the same opportunities as their male counterparts,” it said.
James Toomey, CEO of Mission Australia, said it was time to listen to what young women were saying about their safety.
“The obvious lack of trust and concern about safety has a major impact on young female’s public engagement and participation, their access to spaces and services, as well as their ability to move freely in public places,” Toomey said.
“We need to put a spotlight on what young women are telling us. Young women and men should be able to participate in activities and connect with their friends in their communities with equal confidence.”
The report made a number of recommendations, including improving access to evidence-based gender sensitive mental health prevention, and respectful relationship and violence prevention education.
Toomey said place-based initiatives and collaboration between individuals, community organisations and governments were the key to making communities safer for young women.
He added it was important young people were consulted when looking into a solution.
“These approaches should be co-designed with young people to ensure they meet the unique needs and preferences of both young females and young males,” he said.
But Tiana also said it was important when looking at how to solve the issue of women’s safety, that the approach looked at both women and men.
“A lot of designs when it comes to personal safety is simply for and targeted to young females,” she said.
“If we co-design these approaches to both males and females, advertising they are all encompassing, then we can break down the stereotype that it’s always the victim’s fault.”
A full copy of the report will be released later today.