In 2022, we face an increasingly unreliable public transport system, not to mention the logistical and financial struggle of securing an Uber home, so we often resign ourselves to a night in to guarantee ourselves safety. We miss out on socialising with friends, exercise, running errands such as trips to the shop or walking the dog – essentially, our lives.
The restrictions we face in this way has a direct effect on our physical, as well as mental, health. More than half (56%) of women quit exercising completely in winter, according to a 2022 survey by Sports Direct. We miss out on the benefits of endorphins and keeping fit, due to the fear of what could happen if we step out.
If I am planning to leave the house during the darker hours, I embark on a collision course of shared locations on WhatsApp, near-constant text conversations so others know I’m still alive and co-ordinated meet-ups, so that I spend the least amount of time alone as possible.
It’s a huge – yet necessary – effort. And to be honest, the effort weighed up with the danger of violence (rape, murder, robbery) can cause me to reconsider my plans.
I’m not alone in this. Last year, ONS research found that 49% of women reported feeling unsafe walking alone after nightfall in a busy public place. And while the conversation may not be loud enough, people are speaking up on Twitter about the pure injustice of us having to put our lives on hold for two seasons of the year.
“What a civilisation [where] in 2022 women still can’t go out alone at night without fearing being harmed,” one tweeted. While another posted: “Women can’t go out alone at night without harassment from men”.
While the issue of male violence against women is undoubtedly being discussed more so than in previous years – and decades – it seems like the tacit acceptance by the majority of women that they just shouldn’t venture outside alone once it gets dark is not being questioned enough.
I’d go as far to say that many of us end up exhaustedly putting it down as a necessary act of self preservation, instead of it being one of many ridiculously unfair elements of the patriarchy.
We sit inside, missing out on night runs, peaceful and reflective twilight strolls and not to mention various social engagements. Should this be viewed as normal? Is this an acceptable way for at least half the population to feel like they have to behave?
Most frustratingly, while the majority of those affected by this issue seem aware of how unfair this is, I’ve had to explain it to so many men. That the threat and harsh reality of violence against women keeps us inside.
There was the guy I dated who repeatedly questioned why it was necessary that I ran with a friend in the dark, never alone. He talked at length about how much he enjoyed a solitary jog at 10pm, and balked when I explained why I could never enjoy one of these myself.
Another would call me walking his dog in the darkness, revelling in the quiet. I was so jealous.
The fear of attack or violence in the darkness doesn’t sit exclusively during the winter months, either – it just worsens due to the increase in darker hours. This summer, I walked home from a party at 5am and was terrified by the lack of street lighting throughout my parents’ housing estate.