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Opinion: Walking Alone At Night Isn’t A Symptom Of Silliness, Thank You

Posted October 10, 2012 by Sinéad Keogh in Ramp Specials
Cat People

High on my list of dislikes is the word ‘I’ spread liberally over an article, but this one says ‘I’ a lot and I’ll ask you to excuse me for it, because the thoughts are just my own.

I live in the city centre and find myself out and about a few nights a week. Between dinners, pints, questionable dancing and hikes to the 24 shop for the milk for the tea, there’s a 3km triangle of the south city that’s well worn with my footsteps. My Mother likes to admonish me for telling her that I walk home alone – not for doing it, just for telling her. Acquaintances like to say ‘You don’t walk home on your own?’, as if I might be lying to them. Friends make me text updates on my safety after we have parted in the wee hours. Everyone seems to think that I am doing something wrong.

If I walk directly from my front door to Grafton Street or back the way it takes 25 minutes and is well lit and quite busy at any hour for most of the way. I like the walk. I like having a think about whatever event I’ve just been to. I like people-watching along my route home. I like not paying €10 for the pleasure of a 10-minute taxi drive when I could cover the same distance on foot more happily in twice the time. I like not having to make small talk. I like sticking a headphone in (just one) and listening to music on the way home. I like this city and I haven’t been made afraid of it just yet.

There is a balance between looking out for your safety and the reasonable expectation that you won’t come to harm going about your business in the place where you live.

You hear the phrase ‘silly girl’ a lot, with reference to girls who don’t or didn’t look out for their own safety. Women are encouraged toward not walking alone at night. To my mind, there is a balance to be struck between looking out for your own safety and having a reasonable expectation that you won’t come to any harm by going about your business in the place where you live. I have never gone home alone while roaring drunk. I bow to the inevitability of a taxi if my phone is dead. I keep one headphone out to listen for the overexcited breathing of a predatory type and I don’t stumble like Bambi down streets that are known to be robbery central. I keep up my end of the bargain – but that’s all my obligation extends to. If I live in one place and I work and socialise elsewhere then there is no onus on me to pay for public transport, acquire a manfriend for protection or wait until first light to scurry home at the speed of a frightened rabbit.

Nowhere is safe 100% of the time and anecdotally, Dublin is less safe lately. I can tell you solemnly that I have no ideas about my ability to self-defend myself – in fact, I think I look eminently robbable – and I would cry terrified tears if I was mugged, assaulted or raped. But fear is no reason not to walk down the street. And ‘stupid girl’ isn’t fitting commentary for people who choose behaviours that work for them – economically, physically, or maybe just because they like the city and a good gander up at the stars while they meander home.

This is not to say that it’s someone’s duty to make the city safer so that we can all walk around, though that much is true. This is just to say that if I disappear some night, you may not call me ‘stupid girl’, because I’m perfectly aware of crime statistics and my own mortality, but I deliver on my duty of care to myself, I choose not to be afraid of the street I live on, and if anything ever happens to me there’s another soul entirely at fault. Let’s not make an equality thing of it – because we all know we don’t say ‘stupid boy’ to men who walk alone on the basis that actually, they may be better able to take on another man in a fight. Let’s just say this – in the same way that wearing a sexy dress doesn’t mark a girl out as asking to be raped, walking down the street doesn’t mark a girl out as looking to be mugged or assaulted. I’m not naive about how awful it would be to be attacked – but on balance, I’m not giving up all of those potential walks where nothing at happened except a pleasant wander home.

About the Author

Sinéad Keogh

Sinéad is a striking girl. Not attractive like, just prone to lashing out.

  • http://www.lisamcinerney.com Lisa McInerney

    It’s honestly upsetting that we’re so worried about our personal safety that we’re expected to get taxis after a certain hour, no matter where in the country we are. That’s naturally down to the fact that we’re more aware of potential dangers now than we ever were – and that Ireland’s not as safe as it should be – and not a symptom of our own paranoia. It’s really unfortunate. I’ve been chewed up for daring to tackle a fifteen minute walk through a quiet, well-lit suburban area at midnight, like I was actually putting my life on the line by attempting to get home.

    Having said that, the rise of non sexually motivated street violence has made me as wary for my male friends as for my female friends. I hate the idea of male friends walking home alone from the pub/club, as they’re no “safer” than anyone else, more’s the pity.

    • Marie

      I think I’m more worried about some of my male friends walking home alone as they’re more likely to react to any antagonizing and then definitely get injured. On the other hand, I would have no problem keeping my head down and scurrying away!

      • http://www.lisamcinerney.com Lisa McInerney

        Good point. Guys are judged way more harshly for “cowardly” behaviour than we are, so I think there are a lot of blokes out there who would feel that they have to react to a drunken challenge.

        There have been so many recent cases of guys on their own getting the shit hammered out of them by other blokes, and in some cases getting seriously injured… even killed. It’s really worrying. So now you have a situation where a gallant male friend insists on walking you home after dark, only for you to want to walk him home in return to make sure he gets there safely.

        My solution? Don’t go anywhere without a troupe of Dobermans.

        • http://twitter.com/beatingblog Karen Mulreid

          This is exactly my point about all of this. I remember reading before – and I can’t bloody find it now – that men are actually more likely to fall victim to ‘street crime’ than women. Not rape or sexual assault, but beatings, muggings, someone pulling a knife, crazy drunken loutish behaviour. But there are no campaigns to say ‘Men don’t walk alone at night’ or even on the other side of the coin ‘Men don’t be drunken louts’. I worry desperately about my husband if he goes to a gig or whatever in the city centre. I’m not so into the music so I rarely go with him so he’d often be walking to the bus or back to the car alone and I do lie awake hoping he’ll be ok. I also worry about him when I’m with him because like another poster said there, if someone approached us I know he’d try to protect me and could end up getting even more seriously hurt.

          We should all, men and women, be able to walk the streets of our own home town without worrying about this sort of thing. My solution is more Dickensian and probably not very popular. Everyone who stepped out of line would be locked up. No probabtion, no second chance. The merest sniff of violence on the streets I’d have them inside for years away from the normal people. I know that’s not practical at all and probably very unfair but I’m sick of it at this stage. I love nothing more than going into the city during December to see the Christmas lights and hear the carol singers but in recent years, I don’t linger too long as even as early as 5pm when the sun goes down the atmosphere changes. Lock ‘em all up.

  • http://twitter.com/EmilyAM Emily Maher

    Great post. I walk home alone too and get the same comments from my mother! I usually don’t put my headphones in and try not to have my phone out but apart from that I just try to be aware of things and people around me. I’ve lived in the city centre for nearly seven years now and have never had a problem. *touches virtual wood*

    • Sinéad

      I think if everyone decided that they were going to act safely and not be put off, there’d be plenty of reasonable people walking around at night making the streets a nice, pleasant environment.

  • Will

    ‘I have never gone home alone while roaring drunk.’
    The only thing I have taken from this article is that you take someone home with you everytime you get roaring drunk. Not judging.

    • http://www.lisamcinerney.com Lisa McInerney

      *pointed stare*

    • Sinéad

      A kindly companion who drops me to my door, obviously.

  • http://twitter.com/powertara Tara Power

    I’ll be the first to admit I’m more paranoid and overly security-conscious than the average person. I was even worse when I lived in Paris which, frankly, schools Dublin in the riff-raff stakes. Even getting the metro to work in the morning felt like Russian roulette but then I discovered the weapons shop around the corner from my apartment and now I’m never without my taser and pepper spray. Now that I’m packin’ whenever I’m out and about, I do feel more capable of defending myself but I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable without them.

    • Sinéad

      It’s actually never occurred to me to have a taser or pepper spray. I should. We all should.

  • http://twitter.com/nuckpang Stephen R.

    I spend my nights walking roughly the same roads as you do (mostly to get from my flat into the city centre, but sometimes just for the hell of it) and you’re right, it’s generally not a dangerous area and is a really lovely place for a late-night stroll.

    That being said, I do have a female friend who lives not-too-far-away from that area, and I feel horribly uncomfortable with the idea of her walking home alone. I’ll generally go out of my way to walk her back to her flat (initially at her request, but now it’s just habit). I guess the take-home message, regardless of gender or where you live, is “be sensible and you’ll probably be alright.”

    • Sinéad

      I know that describing places as nice areas detracts from the reasonable argument that violence can happen anywhere, but I still think that choosing your route and having you wits about you mean you should be able to walk about freely at any hour.

  • Sinead’s Mother

    Sinead, this is your Mother, who just wants to say, I don’t just admonish you for TELLING me you walk home alone, I also admonish you for DOING it! TVGC Luv uuuuu lolll

    • Sinéad

      Sorry mother.

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