The other night, as I made my way home from the library I took the opportunity to listen to music through my earphones. I walked along Great Western Road, an extremely well-lit area, but decided to take one of my headphones out, because I simply didn’t feel safe. I felt that if I were to make myself totally oblivious to all noise around me that I would be putting myself in a position of danger; danger of being followed, danger of being unable to hear the footsteps of a potential attacker, or worse, rapist. You may think of me as paranoid, and yes it’s true I shouldn’t feel any paranoia about walking home in a ‘safe’ area, but I do.
On the eve of the fortieth anniversary of the Glasgow Rape Crisis Centre, a huge turnout marched from outside the Botanic Gardens to the STUC building on Woodlands Road in order to ‘Reclaim the Night’, after which an audience heard from Emma Rich, Dame Denise Mina and Susan Calman. What was humbling to see were little girls marching alongside their mothers in order to raise awareness for this extremely worthwhile cause. But these little girls should not need to grow up in a society that sees approximately three cases of rape being reported daily in Scotland, and that’s only those which are reported. Too many women, young girls and men feel shame and humiliation in going forward to the police with their story. According to ThinkScotland, only ten percent of rape victims will report the assault to the authorities, and of those reported, only one in thirty rapists will be prosecuted.
Men, women and children representing all different aspects of inequality peacefully marched on Wednesday night. Megan Burns, President of Glasgow University Feminist Society commented that it was ‘so nice to see such an array of people’ and said that as a feminist this was encouraging because they were all there raising awareness of the horrific crimes that should not be allowed to continue.
Many ask how a march like this can possibly put a stop to rape, things just don’t happen that easily. In answer to this, Politics Lecturer Myrto Tsakatika noted that ‘events like tonight show the power of feminist movements. However, we need more than local action, we need global action. Progress needs to get faster and policies that reach levels of gender equality need to be put in place’.
It was encouraging to see workers stand outside businesses and cheer as we moved down Byres Road, not only does it show public support but crucially it gets people talking. This is a cause much too often swept to the side not only by politicians, but society as a whole. Reinforcing the idea that ‘all is not well’ puts a pressure on people to speak up, and not to dismiss the brutal experiences of a multitude of women and men. It attracts people to the cause.
Writer, Denise Mina spoke of ‘a culture that perpetually blames the victim’ – and nothing could ring truer than the case of a twenty year old woman being raped and beaten in Glasgow’s West End this week. The young woman, currently still hospitalised had arranged to meet her victimiser through the internet. Many will claim this to be her ‘own fault’ for arranging the meeting, which is a disgusting viewpoint to take – no one asks to be raped. Emma Rich of Engender Scotland argued that the ‘thing that causes rape is women’s inequality’, it is through this inequality that a 5% tax has been placed on women’s sanitary items – but wait – the proceeds made from the taxing will go towards women’s charities. Are we all supposed to swoon at the feet of the Chancellor? As Rich put it, ‘women who are raped can now pay for their counselling through menstruation’, creating a cruel cycle of paying for pain through bleeding.
There is an inequality in all aspects of life for women – we argue that we live in an advanced society, yet women are still heavily unrepresented in parliament. How can Westminster class itself as ‘fully democratic’ when only 29% of its MPs are women? In the months before the general election, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s clothes, the way her hair sat on any given day and her general appearance. How can matters such as rape ever be taken with the seriousness they deserve if we look at female politicians’ shoes and not their views? An increase in female equality on a national level will see a decrease in rape.
I look not only to all women, but to society to unite against sexual abuse and violence. Society should not constrict us to believe that women ask to be raped, and we cannot allow it to sweep the issue under the doormat. The paranoia women feel walking alone in the dark needs to be eliminated. Maybe one day we will get to use both sides of the earphones on a walk home.
In the words of Susan Calman ‘We not only reclaim this night, we reclaim every night’.