It’s late at night and you are a woman walking home. Alone. You have your keys between your fingers (a trick passed down for generations), your headphones are off and you are looking behind your back every few seconds.
You notice someone following you.
You keep your head down and walk faster, clenching the keys harder between your fingers. You manage to get inside your apartment building, checking if the door is closed. You text your friend that you’re home. You are safe today. What about tomorrow?
These are daily thoughts and actions of countless women, everyday. I dare you to ask just one woman in your circle, and she will tell you at least a handful of stories. On this mother’s day, ask your own mother or mother figure, if they ever felt unsafe walking home. We are raised to be mindful of our surroundings, to not wear short skirts at night, to not wear sexy underwear, because that is seen as “inviting”. When we report a sexual assault at the police, they look at us with disbelief and ask whether we smiled invitingly, whether we were drunk, whether we were wearing revealing clothes, or simply what if the other person was just “joking around and didn’t mean anything”.
It is Wednesday, May 5th 2021, a little after midnight, and a young Greek woman is being followed home. She manages to get into the apartment building and luckily for her there is a security camera. What we see in the camera footage is a young man with his penis out, approaching the door and checking if it’s open. The same man that was following her. What we saw was a sight that women in Maastricht are not unfamiliar with. Remember Tongersestraat sweatpants guy?
Even though it was obvious to the viewers that this was a predatory move that could end in a tragedy, the Greek media focused on the woman’s clothes. Do you see a problem here? If yes, you are on the right side of things. If not, let me womansplain you why this is wrong. Focusing on what women can do differently is wrong, because that is not the root of the problem. The problem is that we refuse to see a monster in a beautiful, attractive and educated shell of a person. A (prospective) rapist is not your stereotypical, old, creepy guy. It’s your professor, your family member, your friend, your date. Greek media was shocked that this “young, attractive and educated student” could do something like that. What does the exterior have to do with the interior?
Why is it that a woman who finds her voice, who is accusing someone of sexual assault, has to be questioned or disputed? Why does she have to go under the microscope, and have her intentions questioned? Why do we feel the need to defend the young attractive man and judge the woman who was trying to voice her fear?
Why is she seen as the perpetrator?
There is a very problematic culture around, that needs to be reevaluated. We have to have our beliefs reevaluated as well.
No woman should feel that her voice is not being heard. No woman should wake up and feel that she might not make it through the day. No woman should be alone in this.