violence against women

Image from Strut Safe's Instagram.

In March 2021, a woman named Sarah Everard was kidnapped, raped and murdered in South London as she was walking home.

Simply walking home alone at night proved to be life-threatening. But this aspect of the story is no new news. Women have long shared their fears on the subject.

Constant glances over the shoulder and walking with keys between the fingers have become well-known protection rituals against potential violence. And these efforts, though necessary measures of self defense, can at times feel like small band-aids over a larger wound.

As Alice Jackson and Rachel Chung, two students in Edinburgh, attended one of Everard’s vigils, an idea struck them. And it’s helping women in the U.K. gain not only a sense of safety, but something else too. Something of equal immense value.


Jackson and Chung together created Strut Safe, a volunteer organization where women can request a pair of volunteers to escort them home, or stay on the phone with them while they are in transit.

According to Strut Safe’s website, all volunteers are vetted and subject to a strict code of conduct. And as of now, they have more than 50 volunteers across the U.K.

In an interview with indy100, Chung shared how Everard’s death inspired a call to create change.

“The idea of ‘she was just walking home’ was, I think, a very prominent idea. So many of us don’t always feel safe when walking home so we basically decided that we wanted to put something structurally and tangible in place that anybody could call…We wanted to be the universal number for people to get in touch with if they feel unsafe walking home,” she explained.

“The view we take is if we’re there on the phone with you, we’re there with you in live time so if something did happen we are going to be able to alert the authorities,” she added, likening it to “being a professional friend.”

So just what is a phone call like? Well, that depends.

Sometimes, it’s merely gossip. Other times, “you come off a 20-minute call that's been really emotionally intense, really serious,” Chung tells BBC News. “The caller might have been running at the end, crying. And then you'll hang up, and you're sitting on your sofa, the telly paused, and there'll be silence.”

Though the goal is to be available every night, Strut Safe currently runs its services Friday and Saturday nights between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m., and Sunday night from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.

That goal might not be too far off, as social media has added exponential visibility to the service. Currently Strut Safe has more than 70,000 followers on Instagram.

Writing this, I can’t help but be reminded of a Twitter thread, created by activist Danielle Muscato, which went viral back in 2018.

Muscato asked women what they would do if men had a 9 p.m. curfew. The answers were both eye-opening and heartbreaking. Running with both earbuds in, enjoying quiet nighttime strolls, looking up at the stars are some examples.

The answers, though varied, all have a similar theme: freedom.

Muscato's thread offered some long-overlooked insight as to just how un-free many women felt over something easily taken for granted.

Luckily, the volunteers at Strut Safe are helping to change this narrative and helping women reclaim empowerment through their services.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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