Women’s safety is a topic that is brought up every few months after a tragic event that grabs the attention of the nation; but what about the stories that don’t get shared or spoken about? In the current societal construct that we are all used to living in, is this really what is deemed normal?
A survey conducted by Newstalk Breakfast and undertaken by 2,700 women said nine out of 10 do not feel safe walking alone in the dark, with two-thirds saying they have been physically or verbally attacked. Speaking to female students, the general takeaway was to make themselves smaller to make it home safe. Student Ava Keady explained how she and her female friends feel on nights out in the city, “It’s not friendly or inviting to women. I always feel on edge, covering my drinks, constantly having to be aware. It’s just impossible to let your guard down.”
“I suddenly hated the clothes I was wearing and kept my jacket on until I got home as I was scared something would happen again.”
Another student who preferred not to be named shared her horrific experience last October in a popular Galway bar, “A group of us were out Halloween night in a bar in the city. We had only been in the door about 10 minutes when a man approached me at the bar. I didn’t know he was behind me at first but then he tapped me on the shoulder to make me turn around. As soon as I turned around, he started taking pictures of me without my consent. I asked him to stop, and he said ‘no, I’m not taking pictures’ while he carried on taking pictures. I started panicking and asking him to delete them straight away as he started scrolling through his camera roll right in front of me. I could see that he had taken pictures of me from behind obviously focusing in on certain areas. The bartender who was watching the whole thing happen called security as apparently, he is in the bar quite a lot and got in trouble for similar things before in the bar. By the time security came over he had deleted the photos from his camera roll because they couldn’t find them anymore even though I had seen them on his camera roll before security came over.”
“I also felt dirty like I had done something wrong.”
“To this day, I’m still terrified that he has the photos saved somewhere else where security couldn’t see them. I also felt dirty like I had done something wrong even though I knew I hadn’t, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I suddenly hated the clothes I was wearing and kept my jacket on until I got home as I was scared something would happen again. To all those people who love blaming women by saying they asked for it by wearing a certain outfit, I was covered up. But even if I wasn’t, it still gives no one the right to do this. I now feel scared going out in Galway because what if I bump into the same man again or someone else decides to do the same thing?”
“Wearing what they want, dancing like nobody is watching.”
Nightlife for a lot of females includes unsolicited hands, gawking eyes, and championed yells. This is simply a drop in the ocean of a whirlpool of intrusion, many surface level experiences that can lead to much more sinister outcomes. We spoke to Meg Bergin, the the founder and organiser of The Girl’s Room, a women’s only nightclub in Dublin that was set up last summer to create a safe space for women to feel comfortable and safe on a night out. The idea came to Meg as she herself could sense a shift in women feeling comfortable on nights out, “I had the idea initially following multiple incidents regarding women’s safety in nightlife and everyday life in Ireland,” she said. Meg recognised the shift in behaviour in women when they attended her event. “The Girl’s Room has been received super well and we have received a lot of support. We have experienced backlash from the smallest minority. However, our mission is not to divide, but to unite women and offer them this much needed outlet. Women who attended our events have reported feeling safe, comfortable, connected, free, confident, and empowered. We have also noticed that women present themselves and behave differently: wearing what they want, dancing like nobody is watching as well as feeling comfortable enough to attend our events alone.”
View this post on Instagram
With prosecution difficult to follow through with from occurrences that happen on nights out including random groping and catcalling, to spiking and sexual violence, It has almost become the social norm that many are inadvertently learning. Safe Gigs is another initiative to make events and gigs safer for everyone. “We want to eliminate discrimination and sexual violence in nightlife by creating a zero-tolerance environment for all forms of violence and unacceptable behaviour.” Safe Gigs work with various venues, festivals, promoters, crew, artists, staff, security and attendees in Ireland, to educate them to create a safe space for everyone and to have a “good night out, free from harm”.
View this post on Instagram
Speaking to Vice President and Welfare Officer of the University of Galway, Imogen O’Flaherty expressed her concern and gave advice around the highly layered problems of nightlife safety that face students. “It’s frustrating to have to tell students in Galway to be careful and take precautions when they’re on nights out like not walking home alone when ultimately the onus shouldn’t be on the individual to avoid these things but on the perpetrator to not harass or violate. All I can ask is that we all look out for each other as much as possible including calling out rape culture where ever we see it, whether it be a misogynistic joke or violence we need to work together to stamp out these unacceptable behaviours where we see them in our community. In the meantime, if you are a victim of any of these behaviours you can reach out to us and we can help signpost you to the most relevant supports for you.”
For more information on Safe gigs click here.
For more information on events by The Girls Room click here.
Read more from Galway Pulse here.