Darkness creeps around me, I’m sat up in bed, the room around me is shrouded in darkness and the only source of light is emanating from my laptop, the only noise the taps of a keyboard.
I’m one of those people who likes to leave their blinds shut, I only use my bedroom to sleep and change in, and neither activity would benefit in any way from my blinds being open to the world, believe me.
I do now leave a crack in them though, a crack to adequately illuminate my new plant perched on my dresser so it doesn’t die and take the great hope for my mental health with it.
It’s a crack that I can see out of, into the night sky, a few stars above but mostly just darkness and silence greet me.
I can’t help but look into the overwhelming darkness and ponder, they say many of the worlds great pieces of art have come from people looking out of their windows and pondering.
I’m not producing any of the worlds great pieces of art any time soon, you’re reading this so lets face facts, you know that already.
Nothing is scarier than the unknown, darkness brings it aplenty. The alley near your grans can take on a whole new sinister edge, the park you had a picnic in last week becomes a trap waiting to ensnare you. Anything could be hiding out there in the darkness.
The dark gives me irrational fears, walking near a dark graveyard could conjure up images of Night of the Living Dead, walking through an alley late at night could take my mind to thoughts of Dracula rising up from a still warm victim to cut me down.
These childlike thought will pass as quick as they come and I will chuckle to myself at the absurdity of the situation as I carry on home, cutting through alleys and ginnels with the reckless abandon that what’s dangling between my legs allows me.
For women the dark brings a whole different breed of menace, a much more down to earth menace, a much more human menace.
While I find myself wondering if a vampire will strike me down, a women is preoccupied clutching her keys on high alert, 999 pre typed on her phone just in case, she’s planned the safest route home so passing cars could see if anything happens.
She doesn’t fear boogeymen, she fears the man from the corner shop, the one who sits in the corner of the pub, her neighbour, the taxi driver, the off duty police officer.
The death of Sarah Everard earlier this week has hit the United Kingdom hard, it has struck a chord with many. For women it’s the last straw, they have been asked to live in fear of the opposite sex for too long.
Conversely, men seem to be overwhelmingly in shock, for many the collective malaise of ‘out of sight out of mind’ has risen up and overcome them in all its shame and stupor.
Two minutes browsing social media, seeing testimonies and experiences being shared by victims of evil men is enough to make the skin crawl, enough to make me want to close social media and never open it again.
‘Text me when you get home’ and the familiar feel of a set of keys against the flesh of a palm should not be what ties all women together. A man can never understand the lengths women go.
We can never come close to understanding the paranoia, the fear and the dread women go through on a daily basis because of us. We can’t come close but we can no longer accept not even trying.
As a 20-something man I live in total privilege, I can go and do whatever I like with little fear for my own safety, I would often walk home after nights out, at 3am through the dark streets of Manchester and Salford, barely considering the people or the vehicles around me, I am a man, I am safe.
I was once in the toilet at a bar while I was at university, a man approached me and made a few, mostly trivial comments, a little on the creepy side but I just laughed them off, he asked me to soap his hands for him and offered to buy me a drink.
That’s all, a bit of a creepy interaction in a toilet that lead to nothing more than a couple of looks in my direction across a bar, I thought nothing of it and got on with my night for I am man, I am safe.
For me that’s a quirky little story I tell over pints, I never felt in any danger or felt out of control for a second. I am man, I am safe.
Something I never considered until recently was that the toilet I happened to be in that night was unisex, co-ed toilets in bars are rare but not totally unheard of after all. I never imagined the same situation I experienced but swapping my 6’2 frame for that of a shorter, slimmer girl.
That situation, that would not be something shared with friends as a quirky experience over drinks. I am man, I am safe.
I try to be a good person, the veil shifts from time to time but generally I think I would be considered mostly kind hearted.
I don’t touch girls in bars without consent, I don’t send inappropriate DM’s to random girls, I’ve never catcalled or called a girl I don’t know a slag or a cunt.
I’ve even been able to boost my ego by being a white knight on occasion, nothing too crazy, I’ve never put myself in harms way or anything, that would require me to really raise my head out of the trenches.
My white knighting has been more simple things; putting myself between a creepy guy and a friend in a club, helping stop a boy taking a comatose girl to their room at a party, walking a girl home late at night even if it’s a whole two minutes out of my way.
Going to sleep at night feeling good about myself because I helped a couple of times doesn’t let me off, yes I might not be a rapist or a harasser, but I’m still part of the problem, I’m part of the system of normalising guys going out and doing whatever they like to girls, treating them like their property.
I have been on one or two nights where somebody I have been with has felt a girl up as the opening salvo in their barbaric romantic ritual, I’ve been a witness and not stepped in.
I’ve taken a step back because my confrontation could cause a scene, make it awkward or it could EVEN go so far as ruining the night. I have been a coward, I have been selfish and I am ashamed to think back on it.
The weight of this issue is more than I could have ever comprehended, what I thought was a few isolated incidents of evil people and unlucky victims is a full on epidemic, one that half of our society live with on a daily basis and one the other half either take part in or enable.
Sarah Everards family and friends didn’t want their daughter, their partner, their friend to become a martyr. They didn’t want her to be a symbol for change in a system, they just wanted her to make the short walk home safe and sound and to able to see her again.
But an evil man took that from them, his actions will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Predatory men shouldn’t be something you have to learn to adapt to as you grow up, something you are forced to deal with.
Now is the time for change, for men to step up and educate ourselves and each other.
This issue doesn’t stem from women, it’s not a problem women need to solve, it’s not on you It’s on us, the sooner men come to terms with their compliance in the system of violence of abuse we live in the sooner we can move on.
Not all men are rapists, not all men assault and harass, but all men know it happens, and all men turn their backs, choose to shrug it off as a part of society, a sad reality of the times we live in but nothing can be done.
No horror anybody could ever come up with is worse than the horror we have created.
I am man, I am sorry.
I am man, I am complicit.
I am man, I am the problem.