I do not write this to malign you, or to dismiss the good for the actions of the bad. I have good male friends, an amazing male mentor, a supportive brother, and a loving husband. I have been aided in times of need by men. I was rescued from an attempted abduction by a male. I am grateful for the many good men out there.
I am writing to you because we need your help.
You see, it’s impossible to turn on the news without seeing yet another story of a violent attack on a woman. A runner going out for an afternoon jog. A girl walking to a friend’s house. A female heading to her car in the parking lot. A woman asleep in her own bed.
We are not safe anywhere.
I read the comments on an article about the victims who were jogging in their respective towns when they were taken, and it all read more or less the same. These were seemingly well-intentioned people who honestly believed that if all women carried a weapon on their being at all times, we could simply avoid this — as if that was the point. The responsibility is laid firmly at our feet.
If you commented this way and truly believe this, then we have more work to do than I once thought.
Every day that I go out into the world, I am forced to worry about my safety. Every day, I am ogled, or honked at, or loudly talked about by men from all socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. I have walked through a parking lot with my children and had men three times my age undress me with their eyes. Some of you may say, “What does that even mean? That’s completely subjective.” To you, I say, “If it’s never happened to you, you’ll never know exactly what that feels like.” But I can tell you that every woman I’ve ever met has experienced this.
I have been followed. I have been harassed. I have been grabbed at, and “accidentally” brushed against, and was even almost abducted once. I was 10 when the harassment began, 11 when the grabbing began, 18 at the time of the attempted abduction, and followed at 23. I could go on.
Every night that I spend alone, I am forced to worry about my safety. Are all of the windows shut? Vehicles locked? Garage door closed? Women all over the world as I write this are double-checking their locks and lying in bed awake because they think they heard a strange noise in the dark. They are being given pep talks from their husbands about how to use a gun in case there’s an intruder while they’re away. They are being reminded of the need to take a self-defense class.
In magazines, I read about the 10 most unsafe places for women. No. 2 is a parking lot. Every place on the list, in fact, is commonplace.
I have never seen such a list for a man. I know that I never will.
The problem is not a lack of knowledge about keeping ourselves safe in the world. We have been trained since childhood to move cautiously, always on the lookout for potentially dangerous situations. Nor is it a gun issue, or a jogging with friends issue, or a location issue.
The real issue — the one thing that most women are saying to themselves and each other as they hear of another attack — is this: Why do I have to live this way? How is that fair?
We shouldn’t, and it isn’t.
Men, you may think we’re being paranoid or that it doesn’t happen with the alarming regularity that it does, but I urge you to really look within. Visit your mother, your sister, your cousins, your aunts, or your best female friend. Ask your spouse. Let them tell you what they’ve endured. It will shock you, but it will also open your eyes to the injustice of what we face.
Once you’re done listening, the next step is action. Have a conversation with your father, your brother, your cousins, your uncle, your work colleagues, your fraternity, and your best male friends. Share what you’ve learned. Ask that they listen with open hearts. And no matter what, never ever stop fighting beside us. Help us change the current rape and victim blaming culture. Women deserve to live in a world where they don’t incessantly have to fear the next attack.
It was never about how best to protect us. It will always be the fact that we need protection at all.
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