Women are sharing the mental checklists they run through to navigate the world. It's a lot.

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.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement


We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21

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