Dear Men, Try to Understand Our Fears

When I was 16, my friend showed me how to hold my car keys between my knuckles when I’m walking at night. At 21, I still do this when I’m walking alone.

There is no description for the fear that grasps onto our hearts. I find myself explaining this fear to the men in my life constantly. There is a barrier between men and women, a fear experienced by women that most men don’t even realize that they are causing.

I’m not trying to alienate men, I know that most of you are wonderful, respectful people, but we women have a (sometimes irrational) fear that grips us and we want you to understand why.

We have been told since we were little girls to never go anywhere without a friend. We were taught to go to the bathroom in pairs, to always cover our drinks at parties or bars. Curfews are earlier for us. Friends tell you, “Text when you get home!” That is our norm.

I’ll never forget my dad telling me my freshman year of high school, “Kels, if you’re at a party and you ever set your drink down, get a new one. I don’t care if you left for only a second, I don’t care if you think it’s a waste. If you left your drink unattended, get a new one.”

I’m sure that’s something my dad has never had to tell my brother. That’s because the odds are against us as women. Studies show we are most often the victim. Studies show that we are victimized. The Justice Department estimates that, in “a typical 5-year college career, one in five young women experience rape.” That is a staggering. That’s a statistic that hangs over our heads.

We have fear ingrained into our minds. We hate to go out alone: the short walk from my car into my apartment every night causes my heart to pound and I’m always on high alert. And I know I’m not alone in this.

Men, believe us when we say we don’t feel safe. If a woman is asking for help, give it to them. And don’t make fun of us for it. If a woman asks you to walk her to her car, do it without making a passive aggressive comment. We know that you can walk to your car without worry. That’s a luxury we don’t have. If your friend is leaving the bar, even if she doesn’t ask, offer to walk her out to the cab.

There is a reason we are scared. We have been shown the stories, we’ve been given our warnings. Our fear is learned, and it is valid.

So instead of laughing us off or reminding us that it’s a fear you’ve never known, please put yourself in our shoes. As a man in our society, your voice can be heard louder than ours. For something you whisper, we have to scream. I’m asking you to stand up for women. Realize that violence against us is real and fight to stop it. Speak up when your friends make inappropriate comments. Make sure the women in your life get home safe. Fight against violence towards women. If you stand up with us, the battle against this violence, this fear, can be won.