I was planning for today’s post to be a review of the movie Insurgent. Lionsgate was kind enough to provide me two tickets to the Chicago screening last night and we all know how much I love premieres. However…
Last night, when I was leaving the movies and departed from my friend, I ended up alone in an enclosed parking garage stairwell with two large men who seemed to be slowing down as I drew nearer. Something in my brain clicked and my gut did a flip flop. I went through all the “proper steps” for self defense – I separated my phone from my purse, kept my head up, quickly scanned for exits & positioned my keys between my fingers, creating DIY brass knuckles.The first man got to the top of the stairs and waited outside the door – almost like a look out – and the other man waited in the stairwell. (I had been in this position before, when two women attempted to mug me). As I approached the landing and the second man, I made note of his every feature – leather jacket, worn jeans, short dark brown hair, larger nose, light brown eyes – just in case I would need to identify him later.
I came face-to-face with the man on the landing and reached for the door, so close to being out of this uncomfortable situation. His arm overlapped mine, also reaching for the door. I looked up and he smiled and he opened the door for me. He had been waiting to open the door for me.
While I thanked him and walked safely to my car, I was angry and upset that I had felt that way – my heart racing, my brain scrambling, preparing for the worst – just while walking a short distance to my car. Did I feel this way because I am a woman and perceived by many as less than? Or because I live in a buzzing metropolis where sex crimes have increased by 34% already this year (compared to last)? Or because of the constant portrayal of crimes in tv and film? Or because I am all too aware that rape culture is alive and well? I don’t have a solid answer.
What’s worse is what I experienced, ever so briefly, happens every second of every day. You’d be hard pressed to find a woman in the city (and elsewhere) who hasn’t felt this way when they’re alone on the street. So, I did some research. Turns out, women in the United States aren’t even in the top 25 countries for women feeling safe while walking alone, according to a 2011 Gallup poll. On average, across the nation, women are only 62% likely to feel safe walking in their neighborhood and men feel 89% safe in their neighborhood – a 27% difference.
Just to drill that in, if there is a man and a woman walking alone on the same street, the man is feeling pretty confident he’ll get home safe and there’s only a 62% chance the woman believes she will.
How do we fix this? This isn’t a man or a woman issue, this is an everybody issue. There are several simple ways to help women – 50% of the human race – feel safe in their own hometowns.
- Do not support rape culture. This includes jokes, chants, policies, law enforcement, etc.
- Increase security measures. This will vary per location, but safety provisions should be made in all public areas including cameras, infrastructure change and physical presence.
- Institutional change. Only 2% of rapists will be convicted and spend time in jail. Two percent.
- Reduce stigma. Only 32% of sexual assaults are reported to the police due to stigma, fear, humiliation and victim blaming. Because women are not comfortable with their surroundings or the justice system, crimes go unreported and offenders unprosecuted.
So while this is quite unusual content for this here blog, it seemed important to share. These situations happen constantly and we need to hold ourselves accountable, as a society, to provide safe environments for everybody.
Tomorrow we return to regular content… and a review of Insurgent.