+
upworthy

public safety

One day a few years ago I asked my husband what he thinks about when he goes running. "Depends," he said. "I might think about work or what I'm going to do that day or just sort of empty my mind, like a meditation."

"Do you ever think about getting raped on the running trail?" I asked. "Does it ever cross your mind?" It wasn't a confrontational question, but a curious one.

He looked surprised for a second, then shook his head. "No. Never," he said.

We sat in silence for a second as the obvious sunk in. When I run alone, I do think about that possibility. I think about it every time. I know every part of the trail that's obscured from public view, the parts where I run a little faster, where my spatial awareness is heightened. When a man runs behind me or towards me, my radar goes up. It happens automatically. I don't assume anyone is a rapist, of course, but I'm always mentally prepared for the possibility. After a million stories and a lifetime living in a woman's body, my instinct to prepare for the worst is as natural as breathing.


My husband experiences almost none of this. The possibility of being attacked and/or raped exists for him, but the risk and the fear is nowhere near the same as it is for me. He can enjoy a solo run, or walk down the street, or leave a building alone without being on guard constantly, whereas the times that I'm able to truly free my mind when I'm moving through the world by myself are few and far between.

The recent disappearance of a woman in the U.K. has prompted women to share the mental safety checklists they go through as they go about daily life, and seeing it all laid out in writing is eye-opening. Some of these things we consciously think about, and some of simply becomes second nature by adulthood. But I don't know any woman for whom this list doesn't resonate.


We know that not all men are going to attack us, so there's no need to #notallmen here. The thing is, we don't know who might. We don't know whether the guy walking behind us in the parking lot is a super sweet guy just heading to his car or a predator looking for an opportunity. We don't even know for sure which men we know might turn out to be a rapist. Most sexual assault is perpetrated by people known to the victim, and we all know women who have been violated by someone they thought they could trust. So not only do we deal with wondering whether a guy on the street is a stroller or a stalker, but we also have to be on alert with the guys we're hanging out with.

Hypervigilance is the norm for most women and it's exhausting, even for those of us who haven't been sexually assaulted. I'm extremely fortunate to have been surrounded by wonderful, quality men throughout most of my life, and I'm thankful for that. But I have known plenty of creeps as well, and if you were to ask me how many women I know who have been raped, the faces of my friends come flooding in fast.

If you're a man reading this and feeling defensive, please don't. We know it's not all men. If you're a man reading this and wondering what you can do to help, thank you for asking. Here are some things you can do to help women feel safer:

- If you're walking behind a woman, crossing the street is one way to let her know you're not purposefully following her

- If you're walking toward a woman, moving over to the opposite side of the walkway and giving her a wide berth is helpful

- As silly as it might sound, a verbal acknowledgment of your awareness of the situation can be helpful. I've had men say something like, "Just want to let you know I'm walking here behind you, but I promise I'm not following you or anything creepy!" and found it comforting.

- If a woman friend asks you to escort her somewhere, don't make her feel like she's being silly. Also, don't assume she's hitting on you.

- If you see a woman who appears to be uncomfortable with a man in a public place, you can give her a potential "out" by calling to her like you know her. Something like, "Katie! Is that you?" can be enough to let her (and the potentially problematic guy) know that you've got your eye on the situation.

- If you're out in public and a woman comes up and acts like you're a friend of hers, play along. Sometimes women will do this to get away from a creepy guy.

- Speak up when other men make sexist or inappropriate comments about women. Don't go along with the culture that allows women to be seen primarily as sexualized objects.

Let's work on making a world where women don't have to constantly be on high alert, where we are all free to go out for a walk or a run having our thoughts regularly disrupted by concerns for our safety.

From Craig's List to OfferUp to Facebook Marketplace, people love buying and selling their stuff online. But where and how to safely exchange goods and money with strangers from the internet is always a question. Many people don't feel comfortable giving out their home address or going to someone else's house. It's become commonplace to meet in a public place, but even that isn't always as safe as it sounds.

After an armed robbery took place in a retail parking lot during and online sale exchange in Kennewick, Washington, the police department announced their solution to making such transactions safer. They have designated spots in their own parking lot, complete with security cameras, for people in the community to meet up for online purchases.


RELATED: Indiana police department lets people pay for parking tickets with donations to local animal shelter

"Over the weekend Kennewick police officers responded to an armed robbery that occurred in a retail parking lot after the victim had placed an item for sale on a buy/sell internet site," the department shared on Facebook. "One juvenile male is in custody and investigators are working to identify a second suspect."

"While these internet sites provide a great opportunity to buy or sell used items we would like to remind people that you do not generally know the people on the other end of the transaction and therefore you may not know their true intentions. For those reasons we have designated parking spots in front of the Kennewick Police Department for people to meet up to complete these transaction more safely. These parking spaces are in public view and recorded by our security cameras."

Brilliant. How many thieves or psychos are going to try to pull something right in front of the police station? Likely not very many.

The sign at the parking space was donated by the popular mobile marketplace, OfferUp. The company started it's Community Meetup Spot program in 2017, and thousands of these spaces are offered throughout the U.S.

RELATED: Police officer buys car seats for single mom instead of giving her ticket during traffic stop

People seem to be loving the idea of law enforcement agencies providing such spaces in their parking lots. The Kennewick police department's Facebook post is filled with comments from people either asking their police departments to do the same or praising their own towns for providing a similar service. After all, public safety is a priority of police departments everywhere, and what safer place could there be than their own property?

Well done, Kennewick. (If other police departments want to follow suit, OfferUp provides free Community Meetup signs and installation kits here. And community members can find designated Meetup spaces through the OfferUp app or on the Safe Trade Spots website.)

True
Civic Ventures

While on the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump made it clear what he plans to do to regulations.

"I would say 70% of regulations can go," he was quoted as saying at a town hall meeting. According to his website, his vision for regulations is to ask all department heads to submit a list of "every wasteful and unnecessary regulation which kills jobs" — and then to eliminate them.

The site indicates an exception for regulations regarding "public safety." But the tricky thing is, the public, businesses, and the government don't always agree which regulations are necessary for public safety.


Image via iStock.

History shows us that many necessary regulations that we take for granted today were initially opposed by corporations that said they'd hurt jobs and destroy the industry. Fortunately, in these cases, regulation won the day.

Here are three prominent times that public safety regulations won out and we all benefitted — and not at the expense of business either.

1. Food and drug labelling laws

Image via iStock.

At the turn of the 20th century, the food and drug industries were virtually uncontrolled.

Chemical preservatives weren’t tested for safety; toxic colors were frequently used; milk cows weren't tested for tuberculosis; and opium, morphine, heroin, and cocaine were often ingredients in popular medicines — and there were no labels to warn consumers of their presence.

According to the FDA, Dr. Harvey W. Wiley, chief of the Division of Chemistry, was one of the first to crusade for safety laws in regards to food and medicine.

He started volunteer "hygiene table studies" where young men would eat food containing chemical preservatives (these trials became popularly known as "poison squads") to demonstrate that the ingredients were harmful. He wanted to show the public that these preservatives should only be used when necessary and that none should be used without informing the consumer on the label.

But it wasn't an easy task.

A "poison squad.” Image via the U.S. Food and Drug Administration/Flickr.

Whiskey distillers and patent medicine firms (the largest advertisers in the country) vehemently opposed a federal food and drug law.

They said it would put them out of business, and they argued that the government had no business policing what people ate, drank, or used as medicine.

A political cartoon pays homage to Wiley, who led the fight to institute a federal law to prohibit adulterated and misbranded food and drugs. Image via the U.S. Food and Drug Administration/Flickr.

In large part because of this and other opposition, the incremental progress toward food labeling took over a century. Many laws were passed and regulations approved that gave consumers information about what they were putting into their bodies, but each was met with resistance. Concessions had to be made when passing them so that revisions, amendments, and new versions were later needed to protect consumers.

Food labelling as we know it today wasn’t required until 1990. By then, public opinion had shifted, and it was recognized that these laws and regulations were helping public safety.

2. Mandatory seat belts

Image via iStock.

In 1970,  Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and Regulations proposed that all vehicles include an automatic restraint system.

The auto industry, led by Ford, GM, and Chrysler, balked, saying that things like seat belts and airbags would hurt the manufacturing industry by increasing costs.

In one leaked 1971 private meeting between Ford senior executives and President Richard Nixon that was caught on tape, Ford Motor Co. chairman Henry Ford IIcomplained that "the price of a Pinto ... [would go] up something like 50% in the next three years with the inflation part of it, but that's not the big part of it. It's the safety requirements, the emission requirements."

The vehement opposition to the legislation led to over a decade of delays — until public pressure began to mount.

"When I was an administrator, I did a lot of crash testing of cars, and it showed how the occupant is thrown around in the interior of the car when the crash occurs. And people began to understand because they could see it — visually — how violent auto crashes are," says Joan Claybrook, the former head of the National Highway Safety Administration under President Jimmy Carter and former head of Public Citizen.

"So when the auto companies wouldn’t put provisions in the car or opposed them, the public began to understand that they were not helping the public by doing that. It was essentially allowing people to be killed," she adds.

Image via iStock.

It wasn't until 1984 that states began requiring seat belt use (starting with New York). By 1989, most states had seat belt laws in place.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seat belts have saved an estimated 275,000 lives over the last 40 years.

"What regulation does is that it assures that every new car that’s manufactured meets certain minimum standards," says Claybrook, “If you don’t have regulation, the higher-income wealthier people in the country will demand that their more luxury cars have safety provisions and the rest of the public, in their less expensive cards, often don’t get them — or don’t get them for years.”

3. Banning smoking on airlines

Image via iStock.

It took almost 30 years for smoking to be banned on all commercial airlines and flights — despite health risks to both crew and passengers.

Tobacco companies actively fought any and all regulations against their products well into the 1990s, even though warning labels were first mandated back in 1965 — a year after the surgeon general's report on the health risks had come out — and the dangers of smoking were becoming well-established.

Airlines also worried that their customers wouldn't fly if they couldn’t smoke on long flights and that losing all their smoking customers could hurt business. The airlines thought it would be impossible to ban smoking completely, even if flight attendants and nonsmokers were advocating for it.

"Suitcases, uniforms, hair — all stunk from cigarette smoke," Tracy Shear, a flight attendant with U.S. Airways, shared with The New York Times. "And it’s astounding that we didn’t have more cabin fires."

Image via iStock.

In 1990, despite bitter resistance by the tobacco industry and after years of pressure from the Association of Flight Attendants, smoking was banned on all but a few domestic flights that were over six hours.

It took another 10 years for a federal law to be passed outlawing smoking on all flights by U.S. airlines — and interestingly, the move to make all flights smoke-free was celebrated by employees, customers, and even the airlines themselves. Customers didn't stop flying because they couldn't smoke — in fact, everyone was thankful for the clean air in the cabin.

Today, the battle over regulations is far from over.

Lobbyists and businesses still campaign every day for deregulation, saying that meddling from Uncle Sam will hurt them. Some of the loudest opposition comes from oil and energy companies fighting regulations to mitigate pollution and environmental damage — despite the frequent environmental disasters that occur and the looming threat of climate change.

Image via iStock.

Like tax cuts for the wealthy, we are told that deregulation is what's best for business and our economy because that is how innovation happens. When profits are good, they say, the benefits will "trickle down" to the rest of us. But time and time again, we have seen the opposite. Regulation doesn't kill businesses — it just makes them safer.

So as a new president takes office, it’s important to remember that regulation "equalizes the safety protections for everybody," as Claybrook explains. These laws are necessary to protect people’s lives. Perhaps one day we will think that environmental regulations are just as common sense as we now find seat belts.

On April 2, 2015, Aixa Rizzo posted a video on YouTube about the lewd comments hurled at her on a daily basis.

The video went viral, with over half a million views in just a few days. Rizzo, a student from Buenos Aires, titled the video "Sexual harassment on the street: from a compliment to a violation."

In the video, she describes being subjected to incessant catcalls and lewd comments. She says the male construction workers working on a building near her home unapologetically catcalled her every day. It made her feel uncomfortable. It made her fear for her physical safety.


Rizzo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko/AP.

One day, she recalls in the video, three of the men followed her. She heard one ask another where they should take her. She stood her ground, gripped her pepper spray, and let them have it once they were close enough. She was prepared to defend herself by whatever means necessary.

The men accused her of overreacting. When she later asked police to write a report, the officers suggested the men were simply giving her compliments. They agreed to write up the report only after she told them the explicit nature of their so-called compliments. Finally, after an agonizing month of consideration and denial from other people, she took her concerns public. Enough was enough.

Her words in the video struck an important chord that would lead to tangible change in the right direction in Bueno Aires.

After Rizzo's video went viral, city lawmaker Pablo Ferreyra was inspired to introduce legislation. He told BBC, "Some forms of sexual harassment in public are accepted as a traditional part of our culture. That should not be a reason to tolerate this abuse."

The law would impose a $60 fine to catcallers in Buenos Aires, including anyone who commented about or made reference to a woman's body parts.

Image via iStock.

In a bold and powerful move, the city council in Buenos Aires approved the anti-catcalling measure on Dec. 7, 2016.

After all that Rizzo and women like her have been through, it's a big deal. It means that her story and the stories of others have made a difference.

Violence against women is up in Argentina, with a 78% increase since 2008. The country passed a law against femicide in 2012, making domestic violence and honor killings illegal, but that was less than five years ago. There's still a long way to go when it comes to making things safer for women.

A 16-year-old girl's brutal rape and murder in October could have also played a part in pushing this important law forward: Lucía Pérez was drugged and raped by at least two men before being left at a hospital, where she died as a result of internal injuries. Her death sparked an outrage, and people took to the streets using the hashtag #NiUnaMenos (#NotOneLess).

The passage of this legislation means that people's collective voices were heard, and that's incredible.

In broader terms, this new law also makes it illegal in Buenos Aires to capture images of genitalia without consent, engage in unwanted physical contact, pursue someone, or engage in public masturbation or indecent exposure.

It's true it's only a fine for now; it's not enough just yet. But it is a step in the right direction. This law means men like the ones who made Rizzo feel unsafe might think twice before making lewd comments and threatening bodily harm.

Rizzo recognized this revolutionary legislation in a celebratory tweet, too:

It reads: "The law against sexual harassment on the street is a big step towards getting rid of violence against women from the start."

This new law sends a strong message to the world that this type of behavior is not OK.

It shows that there's hope for all of us: Things can change for the better when people stand up against injustices. That's always something worth celebrating.