As a young woman living in New York City, let me just be completely frank and express that I do not feel safe here. Maybe it’s my mother’s constant nagging as she rehashes the daily crime rate of our Brooklyn neighborhood, but living in fear was never on my agenda nor should it be for anyone.
If you’re a woman in New York, you know all too well the bitter taste of sexual harassment and catcalling. You could just be walking down the street, minding your own business when all of a sudden you hear a lewd comment from an uncivilized jerk who unfortunately was never taught how to treat women. Taking a walk down the block becomes tedious as you try to maneuver your way around these idiots who seem to think we were put on this planet solely for their sexual amusement. I want to say that they are just words, but once these men start getting aggressive, chasing you down the street until you acknowledge them, it gets to the point where “frightening” doesn’t even begin to describe it. You’re not sure what’s going to happen or if you’re properly equipped to handle such a thing. Forget about the kindness of strangers. Help seems to be a foreign concept around here.
Riding the subway is no walk in the park, either. I once had a guy snap a photo of me, which not only sickened me but scared the living hell out of me. Now, the MTA is reportedly “taking action” against sexual harassment and other crimes on the city’s underground by installing surveillance cameras on every train between 2015-2019. Will this put a stop to this epidemic? Absolutely not. Personally, it’s too little too late and no matter what they do, creepers are gonna creep.
As human beings, we should feel safe in our communities. I, however, do not, nor have I ever for that matter. Just going outside at night to throw out the trash feels like I’m putting my life in my hands. As a music writer, it’s even tougher. I get invited to a lot of shows – mostly at dive bars which I have zero interest in attending, others I’d kill to see. The only person I’d want to bring with me to any of these events lives nowhere near the city, so if I’m desperate enough I have to go alone, which brings up the question at the end of the night of “how am I going to afford a cab ride home?” Riding public transportation at that hour alone is out of the question, despite how “safe” people may deem it. I want to feel safe and like I can possibly fight off an attacker if I needed to, but I’m not so sure. Not only can I say that money is an issue for missing out on my favorite bands, but safety plays more of a role than anything else and I wish it weren’t so.
This has been happening for way too long. My aunt, who recently turned 50 shared, “When I was 16, I was walking to McDonalds with a friend and this drunk man wrapped his arm around my neck and tried to kiss it. I was more than happy to elbow him in the eye. We had our words and he went one way while we went the other.” A friend of mine, Sherell Murray stated, “I had a horrible experience when I was walking to school one day. A guy was very inappropriate with me and it was one of the worst experiences ever. I wish I knew how to handle myself better.”
The sad part is, people are getting away with this while putting the blame on women, as if we instigated it just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bottom line is, security cameras may help, but it’ll just be like everything else in this city: millions of dollars wasted with zero attention paid. We can fight for change, but unfortunately, I don’t see any progress being made. Respect, especially in this city, is nowhere to be found. That hurts to think about. It hurts to imagine girls having to go through such a harrowing experience, some still in elementary school, without a way of fighting back.
I am sick of missing out on things because I don’t feel safe being out alone at night. I’m tired of hearing stories on the news about rapes and sexual harassment on the subway and in my own neighborhood. What good is life if we have to live in fear? Is the madness ever going to stop?