What conscientious men can do to help women feel safer in public
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If you've spent time on social media the past two weeks, you've undoubtedly seen a deluge of content about women feeling unsafe going about daily life. For some of us, especially those who have survived violence, the fear is constant. For others, it's a hum in the background of our minds that gets louder in certain situations. But I don't think it's a stretch to say that most women think about their bodily safety far more often than men do.

Women have been sharing mental checklists we go through to navigate the world, and it's a lot. Even those of us who have managed to get through life in a woman's body without being assaulted still have to think about our safety all. the. time.

Obviously, the best thing men can do to help women feel safe is to actually be safe. Equally obvious is the fact that creeps who harass or molest or assault women aren't looking for a list like this to change their behavior. But there's a lot that good men can do to help ease the burden women feel when we're out and about.

Here are some tips for men who genuinely want women to feel safe, who may not realize they're inadvertently making us feel unsafe, and who understandably need some guidance on what actually helps.

1. Recognize that our wariness of you is not personal.

If I'm walking to my car after leaving the grocery store at night and you walk out behind me, I probably won't think much of it. If your car happens to be parked near mine, and you're walking behind me the whole time I'm headed there, my radar will probably go up. I'll probably pull out my keys and be ready to gouge you in the eyes if I have to. It's not you. I just have no way of knowing whether you're a sweet, kind guy just going to his car or a predator who sees an opportunity. I want to believe the former, but I have to be prepared for the latter. We know it's #notallmen. We just don't know which men.


We already second-guess ourselves and wonder if we're overreacting, every single time our guard goes up. When you take our wariness personally because you wouldn't hurt a fly, it doesn't help. What does help is knowing you understand why we feel the way we feel and why we take the precautions we take.

2. Keep your distance.

You may not realize it, but when we're on the same block together, we are keenly aware of how close you are to us and how fast you are walking. When you're behind us, we are constantly calculating whether we're far enough away from you to be able to run if your speed picks up. When you're walking toward us, we're calculating your size and build to determine whether we could fend you off. Again, nothing personal.

Knowing this is what's going through our minds, it's helpful if you remain at a distance. If you need to pass us, make a wide enough berth to make it obvious that you're avoiding getting close to us. Ideally, you'd cross the street, keep your face visible, and avoid looking our way too much. If we're on a running trail or something, give us a verbal cue ahead of time that you're just approaching to pass, like "Jogging up on your left!"

I know some good guys who will keep an eye on a woman who is walking alone to make sure no one else messes with her. That's great—just give us plenty of space or walk ahead of us and keep your ears open rather than watching us from behind. And while you might think it's polite to let a woman go first when exiting a bus or train or building, we generally feel safer with you in front of us than behind us.

3. Keep your hands to yourself, even in passing.

Some people are touchy-feely by nature, and some casual forms of touch are just automatic for some people. However, many women will have a visceral response to being touched by men they don't know, even if there's no weird or inappropriate intention behind it.

For example, a man will sometimes put his hand on a woman's lower back while walking past her in a crowded place. Don't do that. What may be a natural thing for you may feel like an invasion of body safety to the woman you're touching. Not every woman will be bothered by this, but I know many women who are. Going out of your way to avoid touching a woman you don't know signals that you're aware of how women feel and want them to feel safe and comfortable and respected. We notice such things.

4. Offer to escort your female friends places.

Don't act surprised or confused if a woman asks you to walk her home. Feel free to take it as a compliment that a woman feels fairly safe with you, but also don't assume it means we're hitting on you. We know we're much less likely to be targeted if we have a man with us, so we're using your presence as a deterrent more than seeing you as a superhero.

Keep in mind that most women are assaulted by someone she knows, not strangers. This is a reality we're aware of when asking for you to walk us somewhere. Even if we know you, we're only asking because we've weighed the potential risks and decided you're safer than walking alone. But we may not feel 100% safe with you, either.

5. Intervene when women are being objectified or harassed.

Whether you're hanging out with a group of guy friends when someone makes a sexist joke or you're walking down the street and see a woman being cat-called, say something. "Don't do that, man. Don't be that guy," can go a long way. And if you see a woman being harassed, physically putting yourself between her and the harasser and staying with her until the harasser leaves can be helpful.

If you've witnessed a woman being harassed or assaulted, approach her gently and offer assistance. "Are you okay? Would you like me to call a [friend, manager, security, police, etc.] for you? I'll stay with you until they arrive. I saw what happened and am happy to serve as a witness." Follow the woman's lead, but understand she might be scared. Keep a bit of distance, but let her know you're there to help however she needs it.

6. Don't flirt with a woman who isn't showing any interest.

The nuances of attraction and flirtation can be tricky to decipher sometimes, but not as tricky as we sometimes make them. When a woman isn't interested at all, she'll usually make it pretty clear. The "playing hard to get" idea is largely a myth, so if a woman is putting of signals that she's not actively interested in you—answering your questions as briefly as possible, avoiding direct eye contact, excusing herself from a conversation, not initiating any contact—don't flirt with her. It comes across as creepy.

Yes, she might just be extremely shy. But being overtly flirtatious isn't going to go over well in that case, either. Basically, assume a woman doesn't want to be flirted with unless she gives you some very clear signs that she's interested in you.

7. Be an example and a mentor to younger men and boys.

What women are feeling and experiencing isn't anything new. This stuff has been perpetuated for generations, and we need to break the cycle somehow. One of the best things men can do is to set an example for younger males. Show them what it looks like to listen to women. Talk to them about what they can do to be good men, safe men, supportive men. Nip bad behavior and attitudes toward women and girls in the bud early. Be aware of the messages they are getting from society, entertainment, media, etc. and counteract harmful messaging they're hearing.

Women are tired. It's exhausting to constantly be running imaginary scenarios through our heads and preparing ourselves for potential threats to our bodies. It's exhausting to constantly wonder if we're being overly paranoid, only to hear another story of a woman we know being assaulted. Thanks to the good men working to change that reality and doing what they can to help women walk through the world without fear.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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