I do not write this to malign you; to pin 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.
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. Seemingly well-intentioned people who honestly believed that if all women carried a weapon on their being at all times, that we could simply avoid this. As if that was the point. The responsibility 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.
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. 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 put down? Women all over the world as I write this are double checking their locks and laying 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 the gun in case there’s an intruder while they’re away. They are being reminded about the need to take a self-defense class.
In magazines, I read about the ten most unsafe places for women. Number two 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.
It is not 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 running 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: 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 or aunts or 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, work colleagues, your fraternity, 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 being the next woman attacked.
It was never about how best to protect us. It will always be the fact that we need protection at all.
Jennifer Bosse is a freelance writer and blogger living in Charleston, SC with her husband and two sons. You can find her on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy and her blog, Tales of A Southern Sweetheart.