Women never feel safe. Anywhere. Glasgow is known for being a student town as it shelters two of the most famous universities of Scotland: Strathclyde University and Glasgow University. Still the city has a reputation outside of the United Kingdom for being dangerous.
30 years old Angelina Kirilova Kancheva is originally from Bulgaria. She came to Glasgow as an undergraduate student and then moved to the Netherlands. She is back in Glasgow after 4/5 years since she graduated for her PhD.
Unfortunately, women are often assaulted more than once in their lifetime. It happened to Angelina, twice in Glasgow.
Still traumatized, 10 years later, she still recalls vividly the sexual assault she has been the victim of. She starts her story by saying that she was fortunate enough to never have been raped and how terrible she feels for the victims who have been.
The first time was during her first year of undergrad back in 2011. She was living in a student hall. There was a centre for people who had been in prison before across the student hall. In the middle of the night as she was studying in her bedroom in her pajamas -which she insists were not sexy or suggestive at all. She says that: “someone threw a pebble against the window, and […] I went to the window and opened the curtains and there was a guy who was masturbating literally on the other side of my window.” Her voice calm and serene, she carried on: “so the guy was holding a torch, lighting his face with one hand and he was masturbating with the other. It took me a couple of seconds to realize what was happening. It was obvious what he was doing. Fortunately, my window was closed, I closed the curtains and turned the lights off so that he could not longer see into my room. I could have called the police or my flat mates, but I was frozen. I then went in the kitchen and made myself a cup of tea, I was shocked”. She never told her flatmates or called the police – which she regrets now.
The second time was a few years later when Kirilova Kancheva was working as an interpreter in Glasgow. That day she had to go somewhere meet someone for work. As she was walking, in broad daylight, a man started walking behind her and soon began catcalling her. As she continued ignoring him and not engaging with him, he said that she had “a nice bum” and when she began running, she saw “that he had started taking his shirt off, undressing as if to show off his chest.” He only gave up when he saw that she went into a busier street – with more witnesses to his actions.
Women have now developed strategies to feel safer. 21-year-old Rebekka Rohlfs from Germany says that when she goes out she has her parents on speed dial and she has an app that allows her to take picture front and back while calling the cops if ever in danger.
20-year-old Ilse Broer from the Netherlands says that in her home country the rare times that she goes home in the middle of the night, she is always on the phone with a friend or a family member in case something where to happen to her, they could call the cops. She says that she always shares her location with her friends and family members, so they always know where she is.
Some bars, pubs, caffes and even nightclubs around the word have tried to install a safe word that women can use to indicate they feel in danger. Strath Union, at Strathclyde University, has posters all over the bar indicating that if in danger, a woman can order an “Angela” drink. The drink does not exist, but it will allow the staff to intervene and help.
One could ask about the necessity for women to take such precautions and go to these lengths. The answer is that women aren’t safe anywhere.