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Be visible

It can be very intimidating to anyone walking alone to know that someone is there, but not being able to see them clearly.

If you appear to be trying to hide your identity – for example by having your hood up or walking the shadows – then it will likely increase the chance that someone will consider you to be a threat.

By making sure you are visible will help others to know that you are not a threat.

Ease the tension by making a phone call

Silence can be scary, particularly when you are walking alone. If you can make a phone call while you’re walking, then it can help to ease the tension with those walking around you. If someone can hear that you are not talking about them and are occupied with your own conversation, it will help to alleviate their fears about your intentions.

Look away, don’t stare

We all do it – we let our mind wander and perhaps do not pay attention to where we are looking. If you are staring at someone who is on their own, then it will likely make them feel uncomfortable.

By being aware of where your gaze is falling, you can help to ensure that you are not inadvertently staring at someone.

Active bystander

When we are at school, we are all taught that if you witness bullying then you have a responsibility to help – either by stepping in or reporting the bullying to a teacher. If you witness bullying and do nothing about it, then you are enabling the bully to continue with their actions.

The same is true when it comes to harassment, abuse and assault, whether verbal, emotional or physical.

If you are out and you witness inappropriate behaviour directed at someone else, then you have a responsibility to help and be an active bystander. You do not need to do anything that makes you uncomfortable, or puts you in danger, but you can:

  • report the incident to staff if the incident occurs at a venue;
  • report the incident to police;
  • ask the victim if they want or need any help;
  • call out your friend if they are acting inappropriately; or
  • interject if someone is harassing, abusing or making someone feel uncomfortable.

Distance yourself

Everyone has the right to reach their destination safely. If you choose to walk, then walking in the same direction as someone walking alone may be unavoidable, but you can create distance by:

  • crossing to a pavement on the opposite side of the road if one is available;
  • dropping back to increase the space between you and the other walker; or
  • by clearly saying “just passing” or “on you right/left” if you are passing or overtaking someone.

By creating distance, you will help to indicate that you are not a threat and will make the other person feel more comfortable and safer.

Suggest walking your friend home

Sadly, 97% of women will be sexually assaulted between the ages of 18 and 24 in the UK. 80% of women in the UK have experienced sexual harassment, assault and abuse in a public place. Until there is a cultural shift and these statistics are lowered, it remains unsafe for women to walk alone.

If someone you know is planning to walk alone, ask whether they are comfortable doing so, or whether they would like you to walk with them. If it is not practical to walk with them, you could offer to stay on the phone to them until they have arrived safely at their destination.

It is important not to offer to walk a stranger home, unless they have asked for your help.

There may be many reasons why someone may be uncomfortable at the prospect of you walking with them, even though your intentions are in the right place. You should respect this and not take it personally if someone would rather walk alone.

By following the BE LADS advice, men can help to indicate that they are not a threat to a woman walking alone and be allies to all women.