Let me start by saying that women have been “keeping safe” all their lives, and this hasn’t helped or stopped them from getting harassed or abused, so let’s focus on what men can do for a change. Here are some ways that men can help women feel and stay safe.
Be an active passer-by
If you notice that a woman is uncomfortable with a person’s behaviour, get involved. Make an evaluation of the intensity of the situation by watching or speaking with her, call for help, report to an authority figure (this could be a manager/supervisor, a security officer or the police), do anything but walk away.
Don’t drive off immediately after
When dropping off any woman, I beg you in the name of whomever you serve, wait till she’s fully inside the building or other venue before you drive off. Don’t leave a woman standing outside alone anywhere, because her chances of getting harassed or attacked — especially at night — are high.
Watch her drink when she leaves
It’s not new information that women’s drinks get spiked. No woman will ever believe that her drink was watched by a stranger and still drink it, but if a female friend leaves her drink unattended for one reason or another, please watch her drink. I don’t mean stay beside it while using your phone. Actively watch it. You’d be surprised how stealthy drink spikers can be.
Ask her to share her location with you
Always ask your female friends to share their ride information with you when they use ride-hailing services. This helps you track their journey, and notice to an extent, if anything is going awry. If they’re driving alone or in a car with someone else or taking public transportation, ask them to share the plate numbers with you if they can and share their live location until they are safely at their destination. Also, text them throughout the ride to make sure they’re okay. But remember to offer, not push. In the end, it’s still her choice to let you help or not. There’s a thin line between concern and harassment too.
Offer to walk with her
This could be as simple as walking her to a public bathroom. Offer to walk with her to whatever destination while respecting her own privacy. This includes standing with her at a bus stop till she gets a bus. Once again, this majorly applies to women you know. Don’t offer to walk a woman you don’t know. Even though your intentions may be pure, it still gives off creepy vibes.
Be aware of your actions
Men need to understand that their very presence can be a source of concern for women in certain circumstances. Walking behind a woman at night may seem normal to you, but a woman is likely to have serious anxiety about it. It’s not ideal, but unfortunately, women have been through a lot. Keep a fair distance when you notice you’re directly behind a woman, especially on a deserted road. This helps her feel safe, and reduces her panic or anxiety.
Keep your friends in line
A man may do everything else on this list, but when it comes to calling his male friends on sexist and/or misogynist behaviour, he suddenly goes mute — that’s problematic. If your friend catcalls a woman, for example, change it for them. If you notice your friend harassing a woman in any way, shape or form, stop them and call them out on their actions on the spot. Don’t laugh with them, and don’t playfully tell them to stop. Be assertive; don’t give room for harassment to grow.