it’s not ok to be afraid to walk down the street

I live alone in an apartment in my relatively small city (by national standards, quite large for Kansas). I unusually spend my early evening at my parents house and then return to my apartment around 10:00. I always have either Benny or Shona with me and when I return I usually spend a few minutes letting them go potty.

However, I hate doing this. It scares me. Why? Quite frankly because I am a woman. I know instinctually that it’s not quite safe. I flinch at the shadows and scan the streets for men who could be lurking in the corners waiting to do rape or harm me.

Of course part of this could be due to my PTSD but my rationality tells me that this is the sad reality of being a woman in our society. Being a woman in America means watching your back and learning as a teen that if you walk in parking lots to hold your keys inbetween your knuckles. It means avoiding dark areas and knowing that there is a real possibility of attack by strangers and an even bigger chance of assault by men you know. Being a woman means I can’t take my dogs out to go potty without being extremely vigilant and very thankful that Benny is a very intimidating dog and hoping that his size would keep strange men away. Being a woman means it’s dangerous to go to bars or parties alone or even to walk down a street at night. Being a woman in out society is frankly dangerous.

Something is wrong. Very wrong. We are a society who claims to be a developed society yet we also have caused this culture that promotes violence against women. Turn on the radio or the television and you won’t be able to go five minutes without hearing something that degrades women. Listen to conversations between teens or young adults and something that supports rape culture might come up. And no surprise we teach from a young age today this is totally acceptable.

Society must change. Our culture must change. I don’t claim to know how but all I know is I do not want my nieces to grow up being afraid to walk down the street.

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29 Comments

Filed under culture, feminism, social change, society

29 responses to “it’s not ok to be afraid to walk down the street

  1. This post really resonated with me, I’m sorry that you have to deal with these thoughts and I’m sorry that they’re a reality. There is this awful moment where we realize we must balance irrational thoughts (whether it’s OCD or PTSD etc) and rational fears and precautions.
    I hope our society can change.

  2. Point of fact. It is more dangerous to be a man doing any of the things you talked about. Men are dramatically more at risk than women are for every form of violence. The difference isn’t risk, it’s fear. Fear much like shame is not something others impose on you. It is something that comes from within yourself. If it is the risk of walk down the street at night, be glad you are female. Men are at much greater risk. If it is the fear of walking down the street at night, then you need to work out this phobia with a therapist. There is nothing wrong with our society. If anything it is atrociously bad at protecting MEN. Your problem is your fear, not the risk. Fear is personal, risk is social.

    • Are you serious? Please don’t be serious.

      For a huge number of women* fear comes as a direct result of something done to them by other people. Have you ever considered that? A lot of women fear places or situations because it’s almost socially acceptable for us to be attacked, and then blamed for that attack. Fear is also social – society teaches women to fear and to feel ashamed. I didn’t used to be afraid, then I was raped and I became terrified, then I was raped again and it got worse.

      If a man walks home down a dark road wearing a nice suit and he gets shot and robbed, nobody will say “you walked home wearing that? What did you expect to happen? It’s not the shooters fault, you were wearing a suit” and if someone did say that, there would be outrage.

      If a woman walks home down a dark road wearing anything suggesting she’s a female and gets raped the vast majority of people will say “You were out after dark, by yourself, wearing that. What did you expect would happen? It’s not his fault, you should have been wearing something else and had people with you.” and it’s entirely acceptable for this to be said by everyone…friends, family, media, strangers, cops, lawyers, judges, doctors etc.

      In north american society it is NOT more dangerous to be a man.

      *I know men have this issue as well, but for the sake of this response I’m keeping it specific to women.

      • Thank you. I’m going to reply to that comment but haven’t formulated my response yet. Yours is great.

      • Facts don’t lie. The numbers are in. The same numbers over and over and over. Men are at greater risk of every from of violence. You may not like the truth, but that doesn’t stop it from being the truth. Women FEAR violence more. The question before us about violence is should we focus more on protecting women’s feeling or focus more on protecting men from actual violence.

        And, yes people do say exactly that to men all the time. It’s relentless. You just don’t notice because it doesn’t get a shrill feminist time on the evening news to scream her outrage that women are infact being treated better than man.

      • smh…I can’t even…responding to this will probably just be a a waste of my time.

        Since you’ve boldly stated that “the numbers don’t lie” please back it up. If you’re going to claim facts, cite your source. What numbers are you referring to? What stats and what studies? Also, keep it to sexual violence not ‘all types of violence’ since the topic of the post at hand is about sexual violence/fear of sexual violence. What I’m saying there is – if rape is not involved in the crime, robbery or murder stats don’t count in this situation.

      • Well if you want me to post the numbers, first we need to agree on definitions. Is rape “A man forcing carnal knowledge upon a women”? If not what is a good definition of rape, preferably one that does not just describe “A man forcing carnal knowledge upon a women”.

      • Ok, Rape is:
        Rape is defined as sexual contact or penetration achieved:

        ºwithout consent*, or
        ºwith use of physical force, coercion, deception, threat, and/or
        ºwhen the victim is:
        ºmentally incapacitated or impaired,
        ºphysically impaired (due to voluntary or involuntary alcohol or drug consumption)
        ºasleep or unconscious.

        Keeping in mind the new USDOJ legal definition of rape, which is:
        “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

        Consent by legal definition*
        ºsilence does not mean consent.
        ºif consent is given under duress (physical or emotional threats), then it is not given freely or willingly and sex with a person consenting under duress is rape
        ºif someone is impaired due to alcohol or drugs, that person is deemed incapable of consenting and sex with that person is rape (even if the impaired person says “yes”)

        I think that covers all your points using current (to the best of my knowledge) legal definitions.

      • Yea, that’s a problem. This definition is a description of “a man forcing carnal knowledge upon a women”. This is not an agreeable definition.

        OK, so step back from definition of rape, and lets go with definition of sex.

        When a man and woman are having sex, the man is penetrating and the woman is penetrated. Yes, at least in most cases?

      • Nope. You don’t get to pick your own definition.
        If you want to claim that men are raped as much or more than women you must use the actual legal definitions of rape and consent and provide numbers and studies that used that definition when acquiring their statistics.

        If you’re not going to use the legal definition I’m not interested in your numbers or facts.

      • Well then lets just stick with the definition of “A man forcing carnal knowledge upon a women” Then 100% of rapes, by definition are committed by men and 100% of rape victims by definition are committed by women and it is impossible by definition for a woman to rape a man. This was the legal definition used by the FBI for almost a century, and it fits your narrative of men being vile and women being helpless.

        Or better yet we can use Andria Dworkin’s definition “All heterosexual sex, even consensual sex, is a man raping a woman” With this definition every woman is raped dozens of times every year. This would make it really scarry for women.

        I’m not looking to dictate a definition of rape. I’m looking for agreement on a definition that does not define the problem as gendered and directional.

      • No. Lets stick with the actual, accepted, legal definition of rape. The legal definition doesn’t define the problem as gendered and directional – it leaves it open that rape can be committed by and against men or women. Your definition is extremely gendered and as far as I can see, counterproductive to your point that men suffer more.

        However, morbid curiosity compels me – so we’ll go with your definition. Why not?

      • Well then back to a previous question.

        When a man and woman have sex, the man is penetrating and the woman is penetrated. Do you agree that this is a fair and reasonable description of heterosexual sex?

      • Sure, heterosexual vaginal, anal, and oral sex all involves penetration of orifice by penis (or toy) but I’ll keep it purely biological for your sake.

      • Making progress.

        Does this mechanic change if there is coercion involved? Sex is penis in orifice, even when it’s sex at gun point.

      • Yes, even at gunpoint it’s penis in orifice.

      • So when it’s a man with the gun, rape is penis in orifice, the victim is penetrated by force.

        When it’s a woman with the gun, rape is penis in orifice, the victim is forced to penetrate.

        Are you still with me?

      • Great, now we have a definition.

        Rape is penetration by force or forced to penetrate an orifice with all the inclusions and stipulations you listed.

        One last thing. We are talking about risk, or what may happen in the future. We determine risks by looking at the past. What is a better predictor of what will happen next year, what happened last year or what happened 30 years ago?

      • So in an incredibly roundabout way, we ended up back at the original definition I posted. Ok.

        Sure, the past is a good general indication of the future, it establishes pattern.

      • This is a VERY different definition than what you first posted. The definition you posted excluded “forced to penetrate”. This is half of all rapes.

        You didn’t answer the question. Is last year’s data better for predicting next year or data from 30 years ago?

      • My original definition included forced penetration.

        I suggest using the span of years offered in the studies and statistics you’re going to be giving me on the subject. If those stats collected their data 30 years ago, use that. If it was last year, go with that. As long as you can provide me with links to your data.

      • http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf

        The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. This is done by the CDC not some special interest group.

        On page 28-29 of the pdf (page 18-19 of the document) are the relevant tables. According to the CDC 1.1% of men where “forced to penetrate” in the 12 months prior to the study. 1.1% of women where “penetrated by force”. Rape is held to be the most gendered form of violence and the rates are the same in the general population. If you include inmates, the men most at risk, many more men are raped than women.

        Men are at greater risk than women.

      • What?

        After reading your tables, related paragraphs and entire section regarding sexual violence I can’t see your concluded numbers of 1.1% on both sides or any indication that it happens to men more often. I noticed lots of numbers stating it was more often women. Most notably 53 million women vs 25 million men. And the rest of your arguments are all over the map and strike me as quite illogical.

        Thanks for sharing your perspective though. It was amusing. Good show.

      • Old data vs new data.

        On that same line if you look at the previous 12 months column it is 6.6 vs 6, so a 10% difference, not a 100% difference.

        If you look at what all that number includes, stuff like getting talked into sex, or seeing nude photos, this is not violence in any traditional sense of the word. These are definitely not risks you face walking down the street.

        When the bar is set at “feeling uncomfortable” not “physical harm” then women are all of 10% more likely to be victims. This is hardly enough to call it a gendered issue or for women to be terrified of walking down the street.

    • no name

      I’m not sure if rape is really that more prevalent in men… Yes men are more at risk from the lack of attention the government gives, more likely to take jobs that are dangerous and more likely to die from those jobs. But how small are you that you consider yourself to be in as much danger as a woman? We are considered weaker, smaller, and easier targets then most men so our fear is more than justified.

      That being said.. I do agree that some work with a therapist would benefit Katie.

      Katie, there are some areas yes that I as a woman am reluctant to be in alone. There are some places I don’t go without Jazzy and/or my boyfriend for back up. There is a real slice of fear whenever I’m in an area known for unsavory characters. But around my own house? Nope. At my own park? Nope. Even at midnight we go to let Jazzy have her bathroom time without fear. I walk to the store (which is behind my house without fear). Maybe it’s because I know in my area at least at a reasonable time someone I know will be there. There’s police that patrol, security around, etc… There is a delicate balance between not being an idiot and letting fear rule you.

      • How dare I believe facts and statistics that have been produced over and over with many different methods? How dare I place logic and reason over feelings? I dare really I do. Men are at greater risk of every violent crime, including rape.

        Fear is not by default a bad thing. Fear will often keep you alive. There are parts of south central that Men in Armored tanks with Machine Guns fear to go.

        You did say one thing I agree with 100%. There is a balance between not being an idiot and letting fear rule you.

  3. Pingback: it’s not ok to be afraid to walk down the street | jessicablundell

  4. Katie

    I saw this post and clicked on it to read later and then went out for my run this afternoon. While I was out, I got catcalled, “HI, sexy” which sadly I have learned to accept as normal, as it has been happening several times every week since I started running at age 12 . What got me thinking today was that these outbursts came from a group of boys who couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old. My first thought was, “Stop listening to Q102” (a local top40 radio station). And then I thought that they’ve probably been in the car with their fathers while they’ve called out to me or another woman in my neighborhood who runs by and it stuck in their brains and they’ve learned to do the same. What a sad state of the world when a boy hasn’t quite figured out how to multiply and divide but has mastered the art of objectifying women. Today, I didn’t feel unsafe because it was little boys, but sometimes, when I hear the car horn or the catcall or the whistle, my heart skips a beat and I do feel threatened. I usually just look straight ahead, like “I don’t have time for you and I don’t give a DAMN what you have to say” because I don’t want to reinforce this nonsense but the fact that I’ve come to expect the same kind of outburst from a grown man that I expect from their dogs is sad. And so I don’t know what to say to you except to normalize the feeling that it can be hard to sort out what is an irrational fear from what is just keeping you safe in a world that treats women as sexual objects. I’m glad to read this, and I’m sorry that you’re feeling hurt but glad that you realize that this is a mark of something that is wrong with society and not with you. (And I also wanted to just give a shout out to those men who are civilized and who look women in the eye and engage us in conversation because, despite the plethora of car-honking morons, there are many of these gentlemen as well, and this anger is not directed at them.)

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