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I refuse to be afraid of walking at night

THE night-time belongs to me.

So do the streets. Where some women feel fear walking alone in the dark, I feel ownership. I refuse, point blank, to be scared walking in my city at night. Nightwalking gives me a sense of ­freedom and of quiet that can't be ­recreated during the day and I will not forfeit that to the spectre of some ­hypothetical bogeyman.

Despite a spate of recent attacks across Glasgow, my position remains unchanged. But that position is not the status quo.

Here is the status quo when you are a woman: when you are female, safety tips are traded back and forth like young boys trade Panini cards. You don't walk alone, not at night, that's madness. You stay in your girl gangs; when you are female, safety lies in numbers. If you must walk alone in the dark then march purposefully, hold your car or door keys in your hand and don't make eye contact. Don't keep your mobile phone visible and keep a firm grip on your handbag. Flat shoes are preferable, in case you need to run.

There is constant fear: fear of attack, fear of the man shouting from a van window, fear of the two guys walking just a little too close behind you. If I drop a friend off at night I'll watch her walk to the front door and wait until a light goes on in her flat. My phone is a litany of texts: "Are you home safe?" "Did you get in alright?" "Where are you now?"

It would seem that while I am bolshy I do not expect the same levels of chutzpah from the women I care about, but then, after sunset you are not expected to expect bravery from a female.

The onus is on women to keep ­themselves safe. Young boys are not taught to mind their physical presence while out at night near women who may be intimidated.

Who tells their sons to make sure to walk on the opposite pavement to a women, walk in front and not behind them? Or to try not to startle any lone females they see scurrying, cowed, in the evening. To mind their personal space. Who tells their sons to be ­watchful of other men: the punks, the cat-callers, the bottom-grabbers? Well, parents should. As well as harrying at women to keep themselves safe we need men to teach boys what it is like to be a self-respecting man. We need men to slap down inappropriate jokes when they hear them, to make it clear cat-calling is an embarrassment. We need men to be self-respecting men.

My instinct is to always speak back to the street harassers, to draw ­attention to them or, at the very least, let them know I'm not intimidated - just a little exasperated. Back-up would be nice.

There also needs to be more made of the fact that stranger rape is rare. Stranger rape is what people think about when they think about rape. A dark night, an alleyway, a malevolent attacker. Our levels of fear bear little relation to the statistics.

On Monday, in Glasgow, nearly 5,000 people walked the streets of Govanhill in response to these recent attacks. What was impressive was the response to two young women, Ashley Crossan and Amanda Johnston, who had simply created a Facebook event page, These Streets Were Made For Walking, and the mix of people who came out at midnight to walk with them. It seemed to me an almost equal mix of men and women.

The two who organised the march said they did so because they are tired of harassment and the fear of assault being part of their daily lives. It was, they said, a call to arms.

The night-time belongs to me and it belongs to all women, so do the streets. I refuse to be scared but, often, when I close my front door and turn the mortice I feel lucky.

I shouldn't feel lucky; women shouldn't feel scared. Ashley and Amanda are quite right - these are our streets: claim them.

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