Since the beginning of time, gender-based violence has been perpetrated by men against women. It’s a fact that cannot and should not be denied by anyone.
In the last 26 years, 244 women have died under violent circumstances in Ireland. This is not a localised phenomenon. Women across the globe are scared to be seen alone, not just at night but at any time of the day. We carry our keys in our hands, put earphones in with no music and pretend to have a phone call with our friend so we won’t be approached.
We can do everything right. We can stay in well-lit areas and walk in groups. We can cover up and wear runners. That still will not deter the catcalling or the groping. It won’t deter the spiking or the rotten harassment on social media.
The fact of the matter is this should not be something that happens. This should not be something that women experience. This should not be something that men think is ok.
What needs to happen is conversation. We need to start calling out the behaviour of men instead of being a silent bystanders. We need to have conversations with male friends about the violence we experience. Men need to have conversations with each other and discuss how they present themselves to women and how it could be perceived as predatory.
The conversation starts at home. If we can talk about it with our friends, they can tell theirs. We need the domino effect to take hold. We need men to be held accountable for their actions, no matter how uncomfortable it makes them. Guaranteed, their discomfort will not be anything on the same level as what women feel each day.
We can’t expect this to change overnight. I know it won’t. Half of the process is beginning the conversation. The rest comes later. The rest is standing up and using our voices, calling out the threatening behaviour, actively learning from missteps of the past.
We cannot continue to let the women of today be preyed upon by men. I don’t want my future daughter to have the same experiences of groping and catcalling that I have had. I don’t want to have the same dread in the pit of my stomach that my mother has for me whenever I’m out at night.
I am sick and tired of living in fear. I am sick and tired of asking my male friends to walk me home. I am sick and tired of going out of my way on the way home just to stay safe. I want to be able to feel safe walking to meet my friends. That’s all I want for myself and every other woman who lives on this planet. That’s all any woman wants.
We want to get home in one piece, without shaky hands or tear-stained cheeks. We want to feel comfortable leaving our friends to head off home. We want to be able to live our lives without the fear of being beaten to death in broad daylight.
Ashling Murphy’s tragic murder has got to be the watershed moment in the fight for the safety of women in this country. We cannot let this go on any longer, enough is enough.
We will not be quiet. We will not be silenced, and we certainly will not shut up.