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.

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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In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

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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