Regardless of Philadelphia’s reputation for violent crime, females should not allow themselves to become victims of their own fear.
During this past summer, I would lace up my sneakers at 11:30 p.m. some nights, pop in my earbud headphones and run through the streets of Philadelphia until the next day, making sweaty returns to my doorstep around 12:30 a.m.
When a woman was raped Aug. 11 on Forbidden Drive, my occasional late-night runs didn’t cease. Nearly two weeks later, a 21-year-old female was raped in Fairmount Park as she went for an early-morning run on Aug. 24. My sneakers said hello to Kelly Drive the following weekend anyway.
A Philadelphia police officer or women’s self-defense instructor would probably call me reckless.
According to the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting System, there were 1,190 actual offenses of rape by force and 1,335 known offenses in the Philadelphia metropolitan area in 2008.
For women to be restricted by fear is sensible, but fear, sensible or not, shouldn’t claim precedence over our lives.
Little more than an hour after reading the TU Advisory sent to students last Wednesday, following the abduction and release of a 20-year-old Temple female near TUCC at 16th and Market streets, I was on my bike, hungrily pedaling to the Whole Foods Market at 2001 Pennsylvania Ave. for a 7:30 p.m. grocery store visit.
It was not a sensible decision. No one rode alongside me, and by the time I returned home, night had fallen. But, with no granola on my shelves, it was a necessary trip.
The abduction occurred at 7:20 p.m. Tuesday, relatively the same time of day as I’d made my food run. But in August, the second Fairmount Park rape happened nearly 12 hours earlier in the day, at 7:30 a.m. When, then, is it appropriate for a female to go running or grocery shopping?
After the second rape in Fairmount this summer, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported many female joggers changed their routines, either shifting the time of day they went or adhering to advice offered by Capt. John Darby of the Special Victims Unit for “folks to use a buddy system.”
After the TUCC abduction, Campus Safety Services reminded students via e-mail to be aware of their surroundings, to avoid talking to strangers and not to “approach or get in a stranger’s vehicle.”
Such safety procedures are simple and are repeatedly spouted off. During its fiscal year 2006-2007, Women Organized Against Rape reported that nearly 1,500 educational programs were performed in Philadelphia schools, and almost 300 were conducted within the community at large.
Yet somehow, WOAR’s 24-hour hotline received 2,000 calls the same year. It’s clear that a victim cannot control his or her attacker, but it seems there’s a lack of focus on what we can control: becoming a victim of fear.
Come nighttime, Celeste Sumo, a freshman university studies major, does not walk past the security post at James S. White Hall nearing Susquehanna Avenue alone, nor will she pass the Student Center on her own.
Walking alone on a Thursday night, though, Sumo said she didn’t let the TUCC incident stop her from journeying from White Hall to Paley Library to pick up a few films, making a pit stop at the Student Center to seek out fourth meal. Sumo will probably “look over my shoulder a little more” after the TUCC incident, but she said it all comes down to the basics.
“They teach you in third grade that if someone says, ‘Look at my dog or my kid,’ you just don’t go near them,” Sumo said. “I haven’t lived in the city for four years, but it’s easy to remember you have to be a little more vigilant.”
Ashley Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.