Poyer: Let’s talk about violence against women

Columnist Sarah Poyer discusses how the hashtag #notallmen demeans women and their safety. 

Sarah Poyer


OK, so not all men commit acts of violence against women, sure, but enough do. Enough men commit crimes against women that bills are being written, women are scared and stories are being shared. Women are scared to be out at night by themselves, they give their friends their location before going on a date, they carry around pepper spray and whistles. 

Enough men commit acts of violence against women that even my best friend and I both carry around pepper spray and my other best friend has the Kitty Keychain knuckle ring (only $8.00). Countless other women in my life have suffered violence at the hands of a man. Women are taught what to do and what not to do to keep themselves safe from being targeted or attacked. But why are we teaching women this? Why are we not teaching those who attack them not to attack? 

From a young age, I remember being told what to do to avoid getting myself in trouble. I have been told, “Don’t walk alone at night, pay attention to your surroundings, let someone know where you are at all times” and countless other little tips to keep myself safe. One friend gave me an example of how in her small town, her parents gave her a list of houses she could go to if someone began following her. The same friend told me how she was put into taekwondo in first grade to defend herself against men.

In my experience, the blame has always been placed on the women, not the men attacking them. Is it the woman’s responsibility to make sure she is only around safe men? Or should we encourage men to be safe men, so women do not have to worry? 

Earlier this March, we saw an act of violence against a woman that has sparked much controversy. On the third of that month, Sarah Everard was doing everything correctly, yet she still lost her life. Everard was walking home at 9:30 p.m., which is not all that late. She was on well-lit streets and was on the phone with her boyfriend when she was kidnapped and then murdered. Everard was not doing anything out of the ordinary; she left a friend’s house and was headed to her own when a police officer decided she was the target. She was doing everything right.

Everard is not alone in this either; many other women have experienced senseless violence, which is terrifying. 

We, as a community, need to do better. Women should feel safe going places alone or being out at night. It is time for us to step up and blame those committing violent crimes and not the victims. 

Since Everard’s murder, the hashtag #Notallmen has been floating around the internet. Do you know what that says? We are OK dismissing when women speak out against violence they have experienced in their lives (whether it is sexual or not). Sure, not all men commit these crimes, I will agree there. I feel comfortable around a number of men in my life, but that does not negate the fact that there is still a large chunk of men committing these crimes. 

So we know these horrible crimes are being committed. How do we work to end them? Sources such as UNwomen.org and the National Organization for Women (NOW) have resources and ideas. NOW has a page that includes hotlines you can contact in relation to domestic violence and sexual harassment. The NOW link above consists of those hotlines. First up, listen to survivors and support them. Surviving violence is traumatic, and victims do not deserve to be shamed.

Hold your friends accountable. Jokes about harming women are not funny. Do not let them get away with them; make them realize it is not OK. 

Make the women in your life feel safe. Ask them how you can help them out. #Notallmen is not OK, and we should not be letting it fly. Women deserve to have their voices heard. Violence against women has been happening for far too long. We need to change our ways. Women deserve to feel safe in their environment, no matter what it may be.