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  • Writer's pictureNiamh O'Reilly

Women Need Advocates, Not Hashtags and Candle Lighting...

Ashling Murphy was going for a run and she was murdered.

Jill Meagher was walking home and she was murdered.

Raonaid Murray was walking home and she was murdered.

Sarah Everard was walking home and she was murdered.

Countless other women were just going about their normal, everyday lives and were murdered by (in most cases) a man they did not know.

This is a story repeated all over the world.

Violence against women is a story as old as time and just as deeply rooted in society. Rape culture, toxic masculinity, whatever you want to call it, but it’s a cultural mindset that's been looming over our lives, all of our lives.

The sad fact is, there is not a woman out there that hasn’t experienced a fear of men on some level. I hate saying that. Most of the men in my life are good, decent men who are advocates for the women in their lives. Not aggressors. Not intimidators. Not attackers. Not rapists. Not murderers.

And yet, I still feel that primal fear inside me sometimes when I walk somewhere at night or in the dark by myself. The deserted car park after seeing a movie. The twilight jog or walk after work. The walking alone from shopping. All of it perfectly normal, and yet all of it tinged with a low level of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.

It’s that fear that a man is following you. A fear that that stranger approaching you might not be what they seem.

It’s me deviating my walking route. It’s having my phone in my hand or maybe even my keys. It’s over-thinking how I might get home from somewhere. It’s denying myself exercise in the winter months because it’s dark by the time I finish with the kids and work. It’s speeding up my walk when I get that feeling of someone behind me.

It’s fear.

Don’t wear that, don’t go here, don’t do that.

Fear, fear, fear.

Fear I should not have to feel. Fear, that in the main, men don’t feel. Yes of course, men can get attacked going about their daily lives too, but men are not faced with the constant threat of fear in doing normal everyday things. Most haven’t had a second thought about going for a run at 4pm on a January day after they finish work. But I can tell you, many women have and do.

Men don’t have a systemic fear ingrained into them from childhood.

You might get attacked, you might get raped, you might get murdered, all because you are a women.

I feel it so much in my bones I want to shout STOP at the top of my lungs.

Ashling Murphy’s family are walking up in a world without their daughter today. Her primary school children are sitting in the classroom without their teacher. Her friends can’t meet her for coffee.

The world is walking up a lesser place.

There’ll be hashtags, there’ll be vigils, there’ll be debates, there’ll be people expressing grief and sharing their stories of fear. But will there be change?

Will this be the moment that society says NO MORE.

I honestly hope it is.

I mean it seems simple to say, ‘hey men, can you just wake up tomorrow and when you see a woman by herself can you just not harass, attack, rape or murder her? Yeah that would be great.’

I’m being facetious, but I’m angry, as hell. I think we all are. Men too.

I know it’s not an easy fix. It’s a deeply rooted mindset that will require action from ALL of us.

I don’t hate men. As I said, I think most of us have ’good’ men in our lives, but we need those ‘good men’ to step up. Now is the time to be vocal. Now is the time to be that advocate for women, to call out misogyny, to call out those unacceptable jokes or attitudes to women. To call out rape culture, to cancel toxic masculinity, to say violence against women is not okay.

The truth is, that change lies beyond hashtags and candle lighting.

It starts with us and our kids. It starts by teaching broad strokes around consent. If your child doesn’t want to hug someone, don’t make them. It’s about carrying that thread on throughout their lives. It’s about sowing the seeds of equality within our children, of showing them that violence against anyone is not acceptable, but especially this concept of violence against women. It’s about teaching them to respect other people. Period.

I’m a mum of two boys and I’m acutely aware that I’m raising the next generation of men. I want to make sure that I teach them these things, that I can instill in them a real and profound sense of respect for all genders and that the best way to help the women in their lives is to be an advocate for them. I know I’ll make mistakes, but if we all make an effort then I know the world they are going into will be on the same page and that for him and the future men and women of his generation, that murders like these are going to be a thing of the past.


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