• eliabethharwood

Women's Physical Safety

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

The fact is we could all be Sarah.

I have deliberated about whether to share this, whether it was insensitive, if the timing would be wrong, the list goes on. However, like I just put- we could all be Sarah.

This is something I’ve never opened up about, but in light of the current backdrop, I felt it was important to share. The harrowing reality is that the below story is common, and for a long time I thought it was my fault.

Two years ago I had a stalker. Every morning, one man would stand outside my house and look into my windows. He approached me on a number of occasions. After some time, he was arrested and taken to custody. There was a police investigation which discovered that he had been driving up from Brighton every day. He had a historic record of stalking, voyeurism, had targeted multiple women and had been issued restraining orders on numerous accounts. The police could not and did not escort me to work. The long and arduous investigation resulted in him being taken to court, and given the lowest form of restraining order.

The police did not and could not escort me to work during this time. I called them most mornings for help. There was no CCTV. I was told to simply change my routine, to call them when he arrived and to keep a diary of this too. I was essentially left to hope for the best.

During this time I went to work every day. I was very poorly malnourished and I recognise now that I suppressed all the feelings around the event. my mental reasoning was limited and compromised due to malnutrition. Whenever I dealt with difficult situations, I put my head down and got on with it. This was another time I did. I always felt that I had to remain small, like a doll. I told myself that this wasn’t a big deal. The lack of support and blasé attitude made me feel like this was normal. Even if it is not normal.

I felt sympathy towards the man, and didn’t want his life to be ruined by me. I put his needs above my own. With each call, I felt like I was causing a huge drama. I felt that I was taking too much of the polices time. I did the best I could, with all that I knew. I know now that I am lucky.

If this happened now, I would push for more support. I would not have gone to work if I felt my safety was compromised. The police are in demand, but I wouldn’t take “no” or long waiting windows for an answer.

We live in a world where we are told to speak out. Yet it’s too much when we do. If someone is asking for help to protect their safety, this must be met with open arms. My story is one of many.

The events of the past few weeks have felt surreal, but the insidious reality is that many women are faced with fear around their physical safety every day. It degrades our sense of self, our worth and does not allow us to live fully. We must all do more.

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