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Why I Still Walk Alone at Night

Illustration by Sarah Fay.

[TRIGGER WARNING] Some readers may find this article triggering, please reconsider reading if you feel you may be triggered by this content. This article contains themes around violence against women, sexual violence, domestic violence, murder and related themes.

I have been hassled more times than I can remember whilst I’ve walked alone at night. Some incidents have stuck in my mind more clearly, like after I had finished a horrendous shift at work and told the large, old and balding drunk man outside of a pub that I didn’t want to join him for a drink. A rookie mistake, always keep your eyes ahead, ignore them and continue to walk; do not make contact, don’t give them a reason to lurch forward in anger. 

In general though, these incidents blur into one, it has happened too often for individual events to really stick in my mind. And even when I haven’t encountered any problems whilst walking, the fears are still there, the pressure of my keys pressed into my hand and remembering to text my friends that I’ve made it back home. 

I was chatting to my flatmate last night and said that I was going to go for a walk, I needed to clear my head before I went to sleep. She asked me if I wanted her to come with me and I said I was okay. We then spoke of Sabina Nessa and afterwards I walked only along the main roads. My other flatmate told me that he was only just learning about Sarah Everard. 

The thing is, I like walking alone at night. I enjoy being able to leave a party when I want to and not paying for the bus or a taxi. I still feel the glee from when I was a kid and up past my bedtime. Walking has always been my catharsis and the night pin pricked with stars and car headlights makes it a beautiful time to ramble. And so I continue to walk. 

I also continue to walk at night because I know avoiding it will not help me avoid violence. Violence against women does not end with sunrise. It doesn’t end when you’re behind the locked doors. It doesn’t end. And I don’t want to give up something I enjoy because I’m afraid of the shadows hunting in the dark. 

I have spent a long time travelling by myself. I’ve been told the areas to avoid, to not talk to some of the locals and I’ve been scared whilst the coach drops me off on the outskirts of a new city past sunset. No one warned me of being assaulted in my hostel room as I slept and they didn’t mention that he would be my age and English too. 

I am tired. I’m tired of being told only to be scared at night when I know that a bedroom can be a more frightening place. I’m tired that my experiences are not rare and there are countless women and statistics that can corroborate my reality. And I am angry that I’m tired from all of this and know that still I’m a lot more privileged. I’m white, heterosexual and cisgender, I might stand a chance of making the news. 

These are a collection of thoughts that I have had whilst I’ve walked at night. I’ve not tried to be academic about it or say anything new, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts. Find below some facts and figures about violence against women. 

  • Worldwide 1 in 4 women will suffer domestic abuse in their lifetimes
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women
  • Of women killed 57% was by someone they knew, 13% by strangers and 30% unknown
  • 92% of women victim of violent attack knew the perpetrator
  • 70% of women were killed in their own homes
  • Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales
  • At least 81 women have been killed in the United Kingdom in the 28 weeks since Sarah Everards murder