We need to be safe to do our thing

Dear President Trump,

I’ve told you before how I run early in the morning, but what I haven’t shared is how careful I am to cross the street if I see a man up ahead, to stay within certain geographic bounds so as to avoid going anywhere near the frat houses down by the U, or how on edge I feel on especially poorly lit blocks. The men I know who exercise when it’s dark don’t have these concerns, but the women I know who exercise outdoors on the margins of the day do so in spite of their worries about being attacked by a man. It’s possible I have a skewed sample. I’ve never seen a survey covering these fears so I really don’t know how widespread they are among girls and women, but if the avalanche of disclosures of assault and harassment is any indicator, they are surely very widespread.

A study of trauma exposures and subsequent development of PTSD from the early 1990’s found that something like twice as many women who reported having been mugged developed PTSD than did men who reported being mugged. When these results were first published other academics were puzzled and just chalked it up to women being hyper sensitive, but I thought then and still think now that these gender differences have to do with the extra fears that come with a mugging for women. A woman who is mugged by a larger, stronger man would logically be afraid of serious bodily harm and rape while a man in the same scenario would likely not have these same fears nor would he have the same level of risk of serious bodily harm and sexual assault. Obviously if guns are in the mix the calculus for both a woman and a man is different, but the fear and risk of sexual assault is still going to weigh more heavily on the woman and thus, a sustained fear response like PTSD.

The very first “Take Back The Night” march happened 42 years ago in 1975 in Philadelphia, but women and girls are still hemmed in and stymied by fears of violence if they venture too far outside into the dark and that is not ok. We need to be safe to do our thing and we need to be safe to have adventures and push outside the familiar and predictable.

May we stop tolerating violence against women.
May we recognize girls and women would be happier if we could roam freely.
May everyone’s health and mental health be valued.
May we all, women and men, insist on full equality and respect.

Tracy Simpson

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