Safety vs. Freedom: A Woman’s Dilemma

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Tuesday, August 6, 2002

By Anne Stover, BLI’s Summer Intern
Senior, Asbury College

The American public has been traumatized recently by all the kidnappings and molestation of children and women. The high profile cases grab our hearts and hit the headlines, but many of us personally know women who have been attacked in secluded, dimly lit parking lots or while jogging in a neighborhood park. Or we may be the victims ourselves. Even minor attacks leave women emotionally, mentally and sometimes physically scarred. This past spring I narrowly escaped a man who attempted to grab me on a busy street in the heart of Chicago at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. It left me shaken, scared and wondering. Wondering why women can’t enjoy the freedom and independence that the feminists claim is our right –to be able to do what we want, when we want to do it, wherever we choose, whether daylight or nighttime. After all, adult American women do not live under a curfew, nor do we live under any law prohibiting us from being in secluded areas alone.

Feminists say that women are the victims of injustice when our freedoms are suppressed; they use the argument that women should have the same freedom as men to do as they please, when they please. They blame a male dominated society where men make and break their own rules. But I say this is not a feminist issue; rather, it is a safety issue that involves everyone.

The recent kidnapping of two young women in California brought the conflict between safety and freedom to the fore. The teenagers were in a dimly lit, very secluded area at 2 a.m. The couples were free to be in that secluded place at that hour, but they definitely were not safe. The couples’ situation was made even more dangerous because of the remoteness of their location at that time of night. Even the boyfriends were victimized, though by no means as severely as were the young women. In this instance, being around other people did not deter the aggressor.

The lessons are obvious. All of us must always take safety into consideration, women especially. We live in a society-in a world-that includes deranged and violent people. In our country the evil ones are free, too, and they are looking for an easy target. As great as America is, a person who is unaware of his or her surroundings is easy prey.

That doesn’t mean, as some people think, that victims of attacks must have provoked the attack. That, of course, is not true. Women are not responsible for the aggressive, sexually-charged, deranged actions of their male attackers. But women can and should take precautions to lower the risk of an attack. My mother has told me countless times to “Always be aware of your surroundings.” When going out alone, a woman should be conscious of the people around her and the area she is in, discerning whether or not it is safe. If she feels the slightest bit uncertain or uncomfortable, she should leave. It is a good idea never to be alone in a dark secluded area. And there is often more safety in numbers. If a woman wants a late night walk, she should find someone to accompany her. If she desires “alone time” late at night, she should arrange that inside rather than outside. A self-defense class is also a great idea.

When a woman avoids secluded or dangerous situations, it is not a matter of limiting her freedoms. Rather she is wisely exercising her right to be protected. There are always risks involved in anything we choose to do. Women must weigh the risks in a specific situation compared to their personal safety and make an intelligent, informed decision. Now that is exercising freedom and being strong, independent-and safe.


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