90% of Brisbane Mums Don’t Feel Safe Walking Alone at Night – What Can Be Done?
90% of Brisbane Mums don’t feel safe walking Alone at Night
The Community Council of Australia has just released a report which revealed that many Brisbane Mums would be aware of. According to their study, 50% of women feel too scared to walk home alone at night, even within their own suburb.
When we first read the report, we nodded in agreement, although we thought the figure was probably too high, in our experience not many women feel safe to walk alone at night. So we surveyed our audience – Brisbane Mums. Of our respondents only 10% felt safe walking alone at night.
ONLY 10% OF BRISBANE MUMS FELT SAFE WALKING ALONE AT NIGHT. Only 10% – let’s let that sink in for a minute…
My Experiences Walking Alone
It got me thinking about my recent experiences while walking alone (and these were just within the last few months):
‘We are staying at my parents place and I have just gotten Coco to sleep. My Mum is looking after her while I go to join my husband and older kids at the local fair – about 300m down the road. The whole town is at the fair, the streets are dark and quiet. After walking about 100 m I realise that this was a stupid idea, walking alone, in the dark, with the whole town at the fair – no one would hear if something happened to me. I half jog the rest of the way and only feel safe again once I’ve found Dan.’
‘I’ve just had my 4th baby and I am having half an hour to myself to go for a walk. It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon in inner Brisbane and I am walking along a main road. As I approach a bus stop, I swear quietly to myself. Immediately, I’m on high alert. There are 2 middle aged men hanging out at the bus stop and I can tell they are drunk, or on drugs, even at this distance.
They’ve seen me coming. One nudges the other and then points to me. As I get closer, I brace myself, despite the fact that they are intoxicated and overweight, I know that I am no match for them if it comes to anything. As I walk past, they slur at me ‘Hi Beautiful – how’s your day been today?’ I smile and mumble something incoherent back at them. To say anything else or not acknowledge them puts me even more at risk. ‘Hey, where are you going in such a hurry’ they call as I pick up my pace ‘we’re friendly, we jus wanna talk’ then finally I am past them. I breathe a sigh of relief.’
‘I am walking home from work. Its just as the days start to get longer and I have misjudged the amount of daylight I had left. It’s getting dark and I am walking along the Northey Creek footpath. I increase my pace as the darkness deepens, knowing I have put myself at risk by walking along in an isolated area after dark, I am on high alert as I walk as quickly as possible to a more well-lit and well-populated area. I text my mum where I am in case, I don’t make it home.’
Every woman has these stories, and then some. The Australian Bureau of Statistics says that two in five women in Australia have experienced an incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 15.
By the way, I made it home ok. But I made a mental note that I would need to leave much earlier if I needed to walk that way again.
What’s even more striking about this story is that at exactly the same time my husband was running home from work along a different part of the same creek pathway, not even considering his personal safety. I was terrified and he was not.
He had his music on and was just focused on getting home.
I had no music on, was texting people to tell them where I was, and was hypervigilant to every sound and movement around me.
(And I should let you know that I have a black belt in Karate AND I used to help teach women’s self-defence classes at my karate studio. I know enough to know that if someone, especially a man, wishes me harm, this is not enough to keep me safe.)
Recounting this to my husband later that night, I asked him what he does to keep himself safe if he is walking alone at night. He looked at me, confusion in his eyes, ‘I don’t do anything’ he said.
‘Do you have things you do?’ He asked me. He was genuinely curious.
Now, I don’t walk much of anywhere at night these days – I’m lucky to even leave the house when its dark because bedtime routines y’all. BUT if I did you can be damn sure I wouldn’t be walking anywhere alone at night.
But before I was such a recluse *cough slave-to-my-kids-bedtime-routine cough* I had heaps of strategies that I would use to ‘try’ to keep myself safe if walking alone at night. You can bet almost every woman has some of these strategies at her disposal if ever she should need them.
We asked the Mums in the group what they do, and these were some of the responses:
‘I have 000 up on my phone and hold my keys in my hand between my fingers’
‘I used to be a Pastry Chef/Baker so worked all sorts of hours ranging from midnight anywhere to 6am starts. Generally, I would have to get a taxi to the train station, even if down the rd for safety.
I had alarm keychains, 000 on the ready and sometimes even carried a pocket knife in my hand while holding my handbag in areas with no streetlights. I’ve been followed, propositioned for sex, had cars pull over to over me lifts and once had a guy masturbated across the aisle from me on a train.
When I reported that at Sydney central Police Station their response was, ‘you’d be surprised now frequently this happens, happens all the time’.
I absolutely do not feel safe walking alone at night. I’ve used all the strategies that a lot of women use: being ‘on your phone’, having your keys spread out in between your fingers, texting a friend to say I’m home safe etc. None of this actually works if a man decides to assault you. Sadly, it does happen. The burden of safety should not be placed on women, but alas, I still find myself taking these measures. I’ve been followed home before, it’s scary, and I carry that fear today.
‘Sadly, I was a victim. In 2009 I was attacked in the street in West End. Dragged up the road on my back whilst a man tried to steal my handbag. I was walking home with my husband from a night out at about 11 pm. I split the back of my head open, tore the muscle off the bone in my hip flexor and broke my wedding ring finger in 4 places at a 90-degree angle. Not to mention years of PTSD.
My husband was punched in the head whilst he tried to fend the guy off me. He messed with the wrong chick and he didn’t get my bag. People say why didn’t you just give it up but your fight or flight kicks in and just takes over and everyone reacts in different ways. The sad thing is this is a reality in Brisbane. It’s not just sexual attacks. Please be careful Mums!!’
This was what Mums that feel safe walking at night had to say:
Definitely depends on where I am, around home or where there is good lighting/ other people, I have no problem. If it was walking down a dark, deserted alley, then probably not going to feel safe on my own, but those areas are pretty easy to avoid’
I will walk at night. Brisbane is low risk compared to other places around the world. I have situational awareness, don’t appear distracted (don’t talk on the phone or use earphones) and don’t make myself an easy target (be drunk or drug-affected). I refuse to live in fear.
Here are some practical strategies that you can use if you do find yourself walking alone at night:
- Don’t be distracted, no music, earphones, phone calls or social media scrolling. Be aware of your environment and surroundings.
- Try to keep to well-lit areas. If you can’t move through the dark areas as quickly as possible.
- Trust your gut feelings
- If you do get attacked fight dirty. Scratch, bite, kick, scream (especially in their ears), if they are a man kick them in the balls if you can, stomp, poke them in the eyes and run. Women can tend to fight too clean, but if you are grabbed, do everything you can to get away.
- Have a plan – if something did happen, what would you do?
- Carry your keys to use in defence if needed.
(Do you have any tips that we can add to our above strategies? Let me know in the comments here or on social media and I can add them in)
What Can Be Done?
If it is unavoidable for you to be walking alone at night then you should consider taking a self-defence class, if you want to feel more in control.
The best way to make women feel safe at night is to teach other people not to hurt or attack each other. It shouldn’t be OUR responsibility – it’s the responsibility of the people who are doing the attacking to control themselves, or, I don’t know, not rape or attack other people.
But until things change, we have to do everything we can to keep safe. I would like to reiterate that it is never the victim’s fault. It doesn’t matter what we are wearing, whether or not we have been drinking, where we are walking etc etc etc. We should be safe to walk at night and alone and to do anything we would like to do without fear of being attacked.
What do you think can be done to make it safer for women at night?