As Students Are We Being Safe When We Work Part Time?

It’s 3am, my shift at the bar ended half an hour ago and since then, I’ve been sat alone at the bus stop. The stop is only thirty steps away from the bar. I’m in a well lit area. Yet I can’t help feeling… in danger. I’m very conscious that standing alone at 3am is not safe, especially not for a woman.

When you look at the statistics, it’s not exactly surprising that a young woman should feel uncomfortable at 3am. According to the Home Office, at least 8000 women are raped every year in the UK.[1]And that globally women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, motor accidents, war and malaria, according to World Bank data.[2]Yet with our British mentalities, we would rather risk assault from a drunken stranger (all with a stiff upper lip, I might add) than simply request a member of staff to ensure we get on our bus home safely.

With a rise in fees and the cost of living getting higher every year, more and more students are subsidizing their degrees with a part-time job. Whether in a shop, and most definitely in a bar, we have to recognize that employers have a responsibility for their employees.

It is very easy for students to laugh off poor work conduct – “Yeah they made me stay back an extra hour and I missed my bus but I’m still getting paid for it.” We feel that, because these companies are basically funding our Otley Run’s and 2-4-1 cocktail nights, that we have no right to question how they treat us. That we should just be grateful for our pocket money, and keep tight lipped as we ‘mow the lawn’ the same way we did when we were five.

However, part of entering into an adult world – a workplace, is realising these companies aren’t our parents. They won’t love us unconditionally, they’re not thinking about our wellbeing. Unless we ask, unless we demand, for some protection, thousands of women, and men, are in danger from rape, assault, harassment. If you find yourself unable to ask someone to be aware of your personal safety, and would rather stay silent, putting yourself in jeopardy for £6.10 an hour, then maybe you need to question – am I ready to even have a job?

[1] Walby, S. & Allen, J. (2004) Domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking: Findings from the British Crime Survey. Home Office. London.
[2] Unifem (2003) Not a minute more: Ending Violence Against Women. United Nations Development Fund for Women. New York.

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