No safe haven from sexual violence

When I got my driver’s license, I was excited for the freedom to drive wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Whether it was going to the mall with friends or quick snack runs with my sisters, the options felt endless.

But this feeling quickly went away. I started to become more aware of how dangerous this opportunity really was. On both the news and social media, there were frequent stories about females who were attacked, kidnapped or even worse. 

I often found myself asking: do I really want to go out? Is it safe? Whenever I drove alone at night, I often called a friend until I got home, just in case.

Clearly, my worries were not unwarranted. On Oct. 19 in Westfield, a woman went for a run in her neighborhood during broad daylight, but was followed by a man who broke into her house and sexually assaulted her at knifepoint. Fortunately, a suspect has been detained since the incident.

This is a nationwide problem. According the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women in the U.S. experience an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime, 81 percent say they have experienced any form of sexual harrassment (i.e. catcalling, unwanted touching, explicit comments) and in 2018, there were an estimated 730,000 threatened, attempted and completed rape cases. Since 2018, these numbers have only gone up.

However, it is unfair to burden women and pressure them to become more informed on how to protect themselves, even to a paranoid level, instead of teaching males that this behavior is unacceptable. While drink covers for parties or self defense classes using household items are innovative strategies for safety, we must ask ourselves if this is truly fair.

We have to stop letting this cycle continue and teach men how to act, instead of scaring our daughters into being cautious their entire lives. There is no reason why me, my friends and my female classmates should be continuously looking over our shoulders while walking in public areas or checking under our cars to make sure someone isn’t trying to slash our ankles. 

Westfield is known for being a safe community, but still, these fears felt by many women have only increased after last week’s horrifying incident. While this conversation is uncomfortable, it’s necessary and it needs to happen now.