I read, with concern, the report of a girl mugged in Crown Heights on Thursday night.
Then I watched the comments on COLlive.com roll in.
“Why was she walking alone at this time of night?”
“Girls should not walk by themselves.”
“She has a right to walk alone. She will also probably be mugged.”
“Don’t walk around at midnight!”
“It’s a given that women should not be walking alone late at night.”
I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’ve seen this before. And yet I was.
I’m 30, single, and I’ve been living in Crown Heights for 12 years. I work, socialize, go to simchas, take classes, and yes, I frequently walk home alone late at night.
Sure, I take precautions. I try to walk on well-lit streets, avoid the more deserted blocks, stay alert, walk quickly, and look around as I go. I don’t talk on the phone, text, or jam earbuds in my ears. In fact, I keep my phone in my pocket, out of sight.
But no, I cannot avoid it entirely.
I understand the knee-jerk reaction, “She shouldn’t have been out!” I really do. But now think about. How would that work practically?
Let’s try some scenarios:
I work late a few nights a week. I take the train home and then I have a 10-15 minute walk to my apartment. Who is supposed to accompany me home? Am I supposed to shell out for an Uber each time? Or perhaps I shouldn’t work a job that requires evenings at all?
Or: It’s Friday night. The meal is over. I thank my hosts and head home. Oops. Should I have stayed home alone instead of going out? Perhaps I even went with a friend, we walked a couple of blocks home together and then went our separate ways. Must we arrange a sleep-over if we want to go out on Friday night? Or only go out with roommates?
Think of any scenario.
L’chaims. Weddings. Recreational classes. Shiurim. Singles events. Evening college classes. A birthday dinner with friends. Volunteering.
These are all normal, healthy things to be involved in. In fact, the primary advice given to singles wishing to meet their bashert is, “Go out! Get involved in the community. Meet people. Network. Build a rich, full life.” If we cannot go out or come home late unaccompanied, how exactly are supposed to do any of that?
It’s simply not feasible, or reasonable, to expect women (single or married) to limit their comings and goings to daylight hours, or to go everywhere in groups.
Violence in Crown Heights—against men and women—is absolutely a problem. But unless you are volunteering to be on call to pick me up and drive me home late at night, or to meet me at the train and walk me to my apartment, or to sponsor my Ubers, please don’t say, “What was she doing out alone so late at night?!”
I’ll tell you what she was doing. She was simply living her life.
As I am. As are my friends. As are all the women I know.