Before social work junior Yadira Sanchez moved to college, she and her dad went to AutoZone to get her oil changed. It was there they saw pepper spray for sale, and he told her they should buy it, just in case.
Sanchez knew what it was for but was taken aback anyway. She wished fathers didn’t constantly have to think of ways to ensure their daughters’ safety when it comes to sexual assault.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and a big part of this year’s movement involves the hashtags #NotAllMen and #NotAllMenButAllWomen.
The discussion was reignited following last month’s disappearance and murder of Sarah Everard, a woman who went missing on her walk home. The incident sparked outrage on the internet, and women began to share stories of their fears and abuse in solidarity.
What “Not All Men, But All Women” means
History sophomore Sandy Tran said that while women on social media have explained how being caught alone with a man is scary, many are quick to say that “not all men” are bad people.
Women who used the #NotAllMenButAllWomen hashtag expressed that while not all men are predators, most if not all women feel unsafe around men at some point in their lives.
Whether they’re an abuser or not, it can be hard to tell someone’s intentions before you get to know them, Tran said.
Most men don’t understand that walking behind a woman at night is enough to scare them, she said. Tran doesn’t even know how many times she’s looked behind her back to make sure a man wasn’t following her, she said.
Even if a woman does everything right and is super cautious, there are still men who will try to take advantage of them, Tran said. People like to play the blame game, asking what she was wearing, but men need to take accountability for how they treat women, she said.
Fears women face
According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 3 women globally will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, a statistic acting sophomore Bethany Mejorado was alarmed to hear.
She used to watch shows like “20/20” and “Dateline,” where women would go missing and later be found dead, and her mom would tell her not to wear certain outfits that could be seen as provocative. As a result, Mejorado was cautious every time she left the house growing up.
When Mejorado was 17, she remembers being pulled over at night. It was a male police officer, and she cracked her window down just enough to be able to speak with him because she’d heard stories about people impersonating law enforcement to hurt women, she said.
Donna Akers, Women’s and Gender Studies associate professor, said as long as a woman is alive, she will always be thinking of her safety, especially around men.
When they’re home alone and hear a noise, many women wonder whether a man broke in and what to do, Akers said.
Most men don’t live in constant fear the way women do. They don’t understand it, and they couldn’t imagine what it’s like, Akers said.
Sanchez said to this day, she carries around a taser and pepper spray. She has one spray in her purse and another in her car.
Sanchez and her best friend never go anywhere without their pepper spray, she said. When going out to clubs that make them throw out their pepper spray, they try to hide it somewhere, just in case.
They’re careful no matter what time of day it is, she said.
The importance of listening
Anyone with empathy should take the time to understand why most women are wary around men, Mejorado said. It can give men a better understanding of how to approach or interact with women without scaring or pressuring them.
Mejorado said one example she’s seen from men on the internet is how they would cross the street early so the woman who was walking in front of them wouldn’t think they were being followed.
Things like that are important to Mejorado because that’s something she’s personally always worried about.
The best thing men can do is listen, ask questions and be willing to learn, she said.