Opinion Poetry

Safe on the Streets – An Ode to Recent Events

Ellie Potts is a Third Year Creative and Professional Writing Student and this years Vice President. Chloe Smith is a Third Year Creative and Professional Writing Student and this years Lifestyle Editor. Featured Image is Alley Street Night by PublicDomainPicture of Pixabay.

Sarah Everard was murdered for walking home alone. Murdered by a policeman. Murdered by someone employed to keep people safe. 

She was walking home. 

We walk home and we are scared. We poke keys through the spaces between our fingers, check over our shoulders, take the headphones out of our ears. 

As women, this behaviour is innate, yet it brings no guarantee of safety. 

For Sarah Everard it wasn’t enough. It hasn’t been enough for many women before her and, sadly, won’t be for many who come next. 

97% of women aged 18-24 in the U.K. have been sexually harassed. 80% of all women have experinced sexual harassment in public spaces. 

You will have seen these statistics plastered across Facebook walls, on Instagram stories, read out on the news and said in conversations with friends, yet we say it again: 

Almost all women have experienced sexual harassment. 

It’s no longer enough to say ‘imagine if that was your sister, wife, mother, daughter or girlfriend’ because, before we are these labels, we are human beings.

And we are worthy of making it home alive.      

In light of these recent events, and the many before them, we have created poems to reflect on our thoughts and feelings.

Tuck Your Hair Into Your Coat by Ellie Potts 

Keys in hand, 

After an unplanned night out, 

Running from street lamp to street lamp

Safe, not safe, safe, not safe 

A car beside me,

Slowing, he rolls down the window,

Speaking the language of love: ‘Those legs!!!’

Look, don’t look, look, don’t look 

The bus window seat,

An old man greets me with a smile, 

He leans all over me, grabs my hand, kisses it

Shout, don’t shout, shout, don’t shout

Groped in a club too many times to say,

At festivals, we feel like prey 

Hands grab us, on the beach, in crowds, at gigs,

We get ‘Slut’ ‘Smile’ ‘Yum’

As a treat, on repeat and, 

‘where does this happen?’ Men still ask.

On our own streets.

Safe, not safe, safe, not safe.

Behind the Counter by Chloe Smith 

(Based on a true personal event)

It was a sunny afternoon,

Tuesday to be exact,

When I had to quicken my pace.

Keys slid through the gaps between my

Pink fingers.

The pavement drenched in sun

And warmth,

While my skin began to prickle,

My back tingles from a well known 

Warning whistle.

No birds above me singing sweet harmonies.

In bright, broad daylight,

A finger pointed out of 

a white dusty van,

Stuck amongst a traffic jam,

I walked past.

A man got out,

I put my phone to my ear,

“I’m on my way home,” I said.

He crossed the road 

As I did to the safe sight 

Of an Oxfam shop.

“A man followed me” I said to 

The lady behind the counter

We shared the same glance.

“I think I will take the bus home instead.”

She nodded and  I left.

Sweaty palms and soles

As I gripped my bag.

My fingers stung from gripping so tight.

The traffic moved on and so did I.

Stay on the phone.

Onto the bus.

Back home,

Still in the light of day.

Safe behind a locked door.

The knot in my stomach 

Did not 

untie

For hours. 

Then the danger of darkness 

fell.

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