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Home Safe Founder Takes Stand Against ‘Sexual Terrorism’ And Calls On Men To Do Better

by : Poppy Bilderbeck on : 25 Nov 2021 13:48
Home Safe Founder Takes Stand Against 'Sexual Terrorism' And Calls On Men To Do BetterUnsplash

The other day, a car drove past me and it didn’t see me, and so a puddle landed all over one side of me; my head, my leg, all over my back. But you know the funny thing? All I could think was how nice it was to have left the house, not a target to be objectified or screened – to have left the house and something have happened to me due to me not being seen. 

I remember walking to school, and a van slowing down next to me. A beep of the horn, a shout that I looked pretty, and two men asking where I was going. I had been in my school uniform. I was 11 years old.

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Aged 14, I was walking along Chelsea bridge with a friend, I was wearing shorts because it was a heatwave. The traffic came to a stop, and so did a white van, the men inside shouted out about my appearance and one of them even got out from the passenger side and started walking towards us. It was the middle of the day, yet we had to pick up the pace and sprint away.

Now, aged 21, every time before I step outside the front door, I take 30 seconds to compose myself. To prepare myself for the pretty much guaranteed catcalls and the looks which are held just a few seconds too long. I routinely clench my keys in my hand, double-check for the rape alarm in my inner pocket, and steady my breathing as I step outside from the safety of my four walls.

It’s 2021, and this year has highlighted that violence towards women is still just as ever-present. Women are still not safe. We can’t even walk home without being scared we will be followed, attacked, or worse. Our friends and family members are always left wondering if one night will be the time we don’t make it back. On the International Day for the Elimination Of Violence Against Women, UNILAD spoke to Match Montana, the founder of Home Safe, a scheme to help fund women’s taxi rides and get them home safely.

International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women (Alamy) Alamy
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I have no amount of fingers or hands to count the number of times I have been harassed by a man, because 99.9% of the time, it happens every single time I leave the house.

Whether it’s walking past a building site, being approached inappropriately at a bar, having worked as a waitress and received the note ‘handjob’ on the end of the order, or having someone on the tube stroke my leg with his foot and others in the carriage turn a blind eye. It is a normal, everyday occurrence, but the fact it’s still so normalised is heartbreaking and unacceptable.

Walking in a street and not knowing whether the man who is up ahead of you is going to be the one who takes the catcall too far, who doesn’t just stroke your leg but grabs you, rapes you, or even takes you to your death.

While it’s ‘not all men’, it is men’s responsibility to make up for the misgivings and detrimental behaviour of a few.

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Home Safe is a fundraiser which seeks to pay for women’s taxi journeys home when they can’t afford them, to try and make sure they can stay safe. Match started Home Safe after seeing women’s responses to the tragedy involving Sarah Everard.

Match noted how the ‘majority of things [he] saw on social media were predominantly done by women. And that it was a heavy percentage that were women who were attending the protests’.

‘I felt like there was just such an absence of male presence in talking about this. At the end of the day, it’s like, we all need to come together to tackle this,’ he told UNILAD.

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It took Match four months to come up with the idea for Home Safe, which first started as an idea for a discount code, and soon turned into the idea of a fundraiser. While Match knows it’s not a ‘full solution’, he believes it’s a ‘step in the right direction’.

Match noted his own experiences walking home and how it’s ‘never really been an issue’ for him, but that when he was working the hospitality sector he had to walk home at ‘2:00am or 3:00am in the morning’ because he ‘wouldn’t get a taxi because it was probably twice the amount that [he] worked for in an hour’.

‘I know this is probably such a big thing in hospitality particularly, where people choose to take a less safe journey home because in essence, why would you pay for a taxi if you have to work two hours for it?,’ he said.

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Match commented:

Last night I was out with mates and girl friends and some said they were getting a bus and I said absolutely not. We were even chatting about Home Safe and they said, ‘No it’s fine we’ll get the bus,’ but this is the thing. This is why I feel like there needs to be more education as well.

I’m not a rich kid, I’m skint. But I try to instil it into my mates that we should buy our female friends an uber. We may be skint, but in essence it’s a tenner, and what’s worth more to you – your friend’s safety or a tenner?

‘No one tells you at school the importance of getting home safely or getting a taxi, or walking someone home,’ he added.

He went on to recall a moment recently when he was rushing into uni and himself made a woman feel uncomfortable.

‘Recently, I was rushing to get to university, in the middle of the day. And I was running late so I was pacing it quite quickly. And I saw a woman in front of me turn around twice, so I crossed the road because I realised, that for me, it looks like I’m rushing and trying to get to uni quickly, but for her, you’ve got a 6ft7 guy running quickly towards you,’ he said.

Match noted his own ‘lack of education and ignorance’ for not realising sooner how he had looked to the woman, and how these ‘little things’ are ‘lads’ own responsibility to understand’.

While what Match did was completely unintentional, he noted how important it is for men to educate themselves around such situations.

‘Because for me, I was literally going to uni and had no intention of speaking to the woman or anything but it’s things like that, or when you see a girl walking home at night, to cross the road, because for you it means nothing but for them it gives them peace of mind,’ he reflected.

Taxi at night (Alamy)Alamy

Match hopes that Home Safe’s Instagram can show him doing his own learning, and subsequently help educate other men on how to ‘make women feel safer and not feel scared’.

However, despite the positivity of the campaign and the ‘ridiculous amount of support’, Match noted the ‘horrific comments’ from some guys on the posts ‘trying to poke holes’ in the campaign.

He said: 

As lads, it’s our responsibility at the end of the day, because men are the problem, so why should it just be women that are trying to campaign to sort this out? We need to take responsibility which is what I’m trying to encourage, for lads to chat about it.

Match noted how feminism is still so misunderstood by many men. ‘When people hear feminism, they think it’s just women who hate men. But everyone should be a feminist. If you’re not a feminist then there’s something wrong, because all it essentially means is equality,’ he explained.

‘I really believe it’s down to people not being educated and it’s down to this toxic lad culture and inappropriate “jokes”. It’s time to move on. We’re not in the 90s or 80s anymore. It’s time for lads to grow up,’ he said.

Match hopes that in the future, Home Safe will receive government backing or that a ‘budget will be set aside for someone like Uber or Bolt’.

Through Home Safe, Match tried to reach out to Transport for London (TFL) to discuss the night tube and women’s safety in getting home. The campaign shared a pink square post on Instagram and tagged TFL asking to chat. However, the posts, which ended up ‘flooding’ the tag page, were simply removed, according to Match.

Home Safe is also working on a phone operating system for voluntary members of the public to be trained in with the aim of going on-call to other people who may be waiting for taxis late at night or need someone to talk to.

‘It’s everyday people helping everyday people, which is what in essence this whole campaign is. Because that’s what needs to be done, because the government aren’t doing anything about it,’ Match explained.

Match also urged Bolt and Uber to get in touch: ‘Message us, we’ve been trying to get in contact, we need to have this conversation.’ He also hopes to set up a conversation with Steven Bartlett, a ‘social media wizard’ who supports many small campaigns.

‘I genuinely think that the term sexual harassment doesn’t even describe what is going on right now, it literally is sexual terrorism. Because with Sarah Everard and all these cases, it’s not harassment, it’s beyond that.’

Home Safe’s website is set to go live on December 1, but until then, you can visit the Instagram page or learn more about it and donate to the fundraiser here. 

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact the Rape Crisis England and Wales helpline on 0808 802 9999 between 12pm–2.30pm and 7pm– 9.30pm every day. Alternatively, you can contact Victim Support free on 08 08 16 89 111 available 24/7, every day of the year, including Christmas

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in this story, you can speak in confidence about where to get help from Mind free on 0300 123 3393, 9am–6pm Monday to Friday

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