• Jordan White

Men: here's how to help women feel safer walking alone

I wish I didn’t have to write this post, but if it helps just one woman feel safer, then it’s worth it.

A horrifying event that happened close to my home in south London has brought to light a wider issue facing many women – feeling unsafe walking alone.

And specifically, men making women feel unsafe.

Having spoken to some female friends about this recently, I’ve certainly been guilty, without even realising, of not doing enough to help women feel safer walking alone.

So read, take note and ditch your ego. This isn’t about you. Women should be able to feel safe to walk when and where they want.

1) Keep your distance if you’re behind

If you’re walking behind a woman – whatever time of day – just be aware of how close you’re getting.

Create some distance if you’re too close. Anything closer than a car’s length is probably too close.

  • Stop to tie your laces

  • Stop to check your phone

  • Walk a bit slower

You’ll calm her nerves.

2) Cross the street

Taking the same route as a woman in front of you is pretty common. If you’ve been following the same route as her for more than a street, just cross to the other side if you have the option.

3) Overtake so you’re not ‘following’

While you may be doing nothing wrong by simply taking the same route as her, she may still feel a sense of being followed.

If you can, try to get ahead but without startling her.

A simple ‘excuse me, can I just get by’.

4) Don’t force a woman out of her path

She is walking on what she feels is the safest part of a path. It might be the best-lit part, or the least confined. Keep out of her path.

5) Offer to walk a female friend home (but don’t insist)

She might say no and feel perfectly comfortable walking alone. But secretly you will be her hero.

6) Don’t overreact if YOU feel judged

Remember, this isn’t about you.

While you are doing something innocent, a woman may feel something totally different. Don’t overreact if you’re accused of getting too close.

7) In a lift? Make your floor known

If you and a woman enter an empty lift, ignore the pleasantries of ‘ladies first’ with this one, if you can.

Enter the lift before her and push the button for your floor. That way she knows you already have a destination and you’ve not got into the lift because you’re following her.

If she enters the lift before you, ask her to push the button for the floor you need. It signals to her that you're not following her.

As uncommon as this particular scenario might sound, a friend of mine realised she was being followed in a lift.

General basic politeness

These tips may seem obvious, but they’re no less significant, and can apply to all genders actually.

Phone somebody

Silence creates fear – particularly at night or in quiet locations when the only thing a woman might hear is the sound of somebody else walking behind her.

Call a friend or family member so that she:

  • has a better sense of where you are

  • feels reassured that you’re simply on a walk chatting to somebody on your phone.

Avoid confined routes if a woman is passing

Underpasses, alleyways, narrow paths – let her get by before you try passing.

Call out inappropriate behaviour

You might be with a group of guys and one of your friends harasses a woman when they think they’re just having a joke. CALL HIM OUT on it. Even if it’s a stranger, ignorance is not an excuse.

Make space when you’re on a run or bike ride

Sadly, social distancing measures don’t seem to have had much effect on this one.

DO NOT be that guy that brushes up against a woman walking as your run past her.

  • Find a way to pass her without encroaching her space

  • Let her know you’re about to pass with a simple ‘jogger passing’

Key takeaway

Don’t underestimate how these simple tips can help women feel safer being out by themselves.

You may know that you have no bad intentions, but we – men – are not great at understanding how we make women feel.

Something like crossing the street or keeping your distance might seem insignificant to you, but could be the difference between a woman feeling threatened and feeling safe.