πŸ’₯Atomic Essays

Short-form lightly edited, lightly structured essays, written in 30 minutes.
Published on:
June 23, 2024

The Unseen Struggle: A Black Woman's Perspective on Safety and Society

I've faced challenges that many might not understand or even believe. My experiences have opened my eyes to the harsh realities of being a minority, especially when it comes to personal safety and societal perceptions. Today, I want to share my story and shed light on issues that are often overlooked or misunderstood.

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The Recurring Nightmare

Just yesterday, I found myself discussing with a friend the numerous times I've felt unsafe, particularly at night after leaving my religious meetings. I've experienced multiple assaults over time, and last year, when my neighbor assaulted me for the second time, it set me over the edge mentally. When I shared these traumatic experiences with people in my life, I was met with disbelief and victim-blaming questions:

-Why would this happen to you?

Why are you being a victim?

Why would anyone want to do that to you?

What makes you different or special?

These responses crushed me mentally. It's a stark reminder of how little some people understand about the vulnerabilities certain individuals face in our society and so many default to gaslighting rather than understanding. My race, marital status, lack of family, lack of supportive friends (at times), and lack of community all significantly contribute to making me a target. These factors create a perfect storm of vulnerability that predators seem all too eager to exploit.

Because I'm a very understanding person, I don't always get angry when people ask hyper questions. I've come to realize that so much of everyday society and thinking is deeply misogynistic. People often automatically take the side of the man and assume the woman is lying or seeking attention. How many times do we hear of women speaking up about being harassed, bullied, or followed, and or stalked only for them to end up dead? The police often uncover multiple instances of these issues posthumously. This pattern of disbelief and victim-blaming needs to change, as it only perpetuates the cycle of violence and silences those who need help the most.

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A Pattern Emerges

Reflecting on my experiences, I've noticed a troubling pattern. Almost every instance of verbal or physical assault I've endured from strangers has occurred at night. The most recent incident happened just this past Wednesday after my religious meeting. Walking home alone, as I always do on Wednesdays, I was suddenly confronted by a sex worker who felt threatened by me "infringing on their territory."

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The Painful Reality of Victim-Blaming

What's particularly upsetting is the tendency for people to question why these things "always" happen to me. One friend even suggested that I'm "naive," a label I've never heard applied to me before. But I believe there's a larger factor at play here – one that people often fail to consider, especially when it comes to Black women.

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The Intersectionality of Vulnerability

I can't help but wonder: If I were a white woman experiencing these incidents, would people react differently? I believe my identity as a Black woman significantly impacts how others perceive and respond to my experiences. There are several factors that contribute to my vulnerability:

  1. I'm young
  2. I'm Black
  3. I'm very short
  4. I'm often alone, not by choice

This combination, unfortunately, creates a perfect target for predators and abusers. In the cases that were the worst, the perpetrators noticed I had no friends and family and saw me as an easy target. Research shows that people are more likely to attack or abuse those they perceive as defenseless.

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A Predator's Perspective

My experiences in Europe and more recently have shown me how predators operate. They observe, they wait, and they strike when they believe they can get away with it. In Harlem, again, on my way home after my religious meeting, a man approached me saying, "I've been watching you every Wednesday. You come home around this time, and every time I talk to you, you don't talk back." He admitted to stalking me and also made a threat. This chilling encounter mirrors what happened to me in Eastern Europe – a predator noticing my routine and isolation.

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Debunking the Myths

Some might ask about my clothing or behavior, searching for a reason to blame me for these attacks. But I dress modestly, wearing loose, long Black clothing that doesn't reveal my neckline or chest. I avoid tight clothing, opting for long, loose tops even with fitted bottoms. The issue clearly isn't about what I'm wearing or how I'm acting.

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The Power of Witness

One incident stands out as a clear example of how these attacks can happen to anyone, anywhere. I was on the phone with a friend who wanted to ensure I got home safely. While we were talking, a stranger threw bottles at me – an act of random violence my friend heard in real-time. This happened shortly after a period of increased assaults on Black people and other minorities following a political event.

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A Call for Understanding and Action

To those who still harbor ignorant mindsets about these experiences, I urge you to take a step back and try to see both sides of the story. Consider the mental health challenges faced by individuals who are homeless or living in poverty. Remember that economic hardship can exacerbate predatory behavior.

Instead of blaming the victim, we need to acknowledge that the problem often lies with the perpetrators. We've seen horrific stories of violence against women who reject advances or simply exist in public spaces. It's time to shift our focus from questioning the victims to addressing the root causes of these behaviors.

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Finding Strength and Support

Despite the challenges I face, I'm grateful for the support system and mental health resources available to me. While I may have to endure living in a challenging neighborhood and walking home alone at night, I have the tools to process and overcome these experiences.

To anyone reading this who has been through similar situations: know that you're not alone. Your experiences are valid, and you deserve support and understanding.

And to those who hear stories like mine: please, don't judge. Try to understand what we're going through. Ask how you can help make our communities safer for everyone. Together, we can work towards a world where no one has to fear for their safety simply because of who they are or where they live.

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