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September 7, 2020
Discovering the problem

Emma shares her experiences with fear and how they led to us building STAND.

4

minute read

I’ve always felt on edge and slightly scared every time I’m walking home at night. Do you know the feeling? When you’re by yourself, it’s dark and every little noise seems to make you jump. Your mind can go to crazy places and you’re getting your keys out ready to run in the door to safety. I’m not even sure why sometimes, especially when I walk the same streets most days. When I was at University it seemed to heighten with unknown surroundings and being away from the comforts of my hometown. I wondered if other people felt this way or it was just my mind making up worst-case scenarios.

Chatting to more of my friends I realised I wasn’t alone in this feeling. There are so many of us who fear a random stranger walking behind us or hear a rustle and get out our phone for safety. I’m a big advocate for empowering women and thought that surely in this day and age where a women can do anything a man can do, we shouldn’t have to feel scared in the towns that we live and work.

This is part of the reason we started STAND, we wanted to give people peace of mind and confidence. At the beginning of this journey understanding the psychological impacts and the physical problems that people face in terms of personal safety was key, and this is what inspired our give back culture.

Chatting to charities like Nexus NI, Women’s Aid, The Lucy Faithful Foundation and The Rainbow Project gave us insightful knowledge around the problems that both men and women face. These were genuinely some of the hardest conversations to have, and we were just hearing about survivors’ experiences never mind being the strong individual that has taken a stand to speak up. I think at the beginning I was naïve to the extent of the problem of sexual assault and harassment that there is in the UK. It’s only when I looked into the stats that I began to see this huge issue that is so prevalent in our society. I’ll warn you now they’re pretty shocking and slightly uncomfortable.

• 1 in 5 women in England and Wales have experiences some type of sexual assault since the age of 16 (3 million+ women)

• 4% of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16

• 5 in 6 survivors (83%) don’t report their experiences to the police• 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetimes

I’m not highlighting the issue to make people feel scared, that’s not the aim, but burying our heads in the sand never helps make a change. Drawing attention to what’s going on can help us make more informed decisions, call out unhelpful behaviour and look out for our friends and family.

It’s only now that I’m chatting about my experiences with my friends that I’m realising we’ve all been in similar situations. Whether it’s unwanted attention in work places, groping in a club or harassing text messages, the majority of us can remember a time that we’ve felt uncomfortable and violated.

Changing our society is going to take a lot of work. At STAND we believe that education will play a huge part in this. That’s why we give 10% of our profits to charities working with survivors of assault and charities that provide educational programmes to help eradicate the issue.

We don’t have all the answers when it comes to sexual harassment and we don’t claim to be experts on the subject. We’re still learning everyday, but we want to try and lift the lid on the issue and provide a space that people can speak up and be heard. After all so many of us have experienced harassment in some shape or form and we should start to share our experiences, because when we do we empower others to stand up and share theirs too.

‘I think sharing experiences is a great thing in order to change things in society’ – Sanna Lenken

If this is an issue affecting you please speak to someone you trust, even reach out to us! Alternatively there are so many great charities doing amazing work, we’ve added a few below:

  • The Survivor Trust
  • Rape Crisis England and Wales
  • Safeline
  • NSPCC
  • Survivors UK – Male rape and sexual abuse
  • Victim Support
  • Nexus NI
  • The Rainbow Project

Emma McQuiggan

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