controversial safety

28 Aug

It’s an issue I’ve been grappling with this summer, mainly with regards to my commute.

There are two good public transportation options to school.  One is safe, but less convenient.  One is more convenient, arguably less safe…as in, I’ve been told it’s fine during the day, sketchy at night.  How does one measure safety?  Is public hearsay a good indicator?  How reliant can I be on my immediate reactions and instincts?

As I made the trek home on Friday evening, easily an hour before dark, I was stalled at 69th Street Terminal, where I regularly make my transfer from subway to light rail.  I sat on the stopped train for about 45 minutes as they fixed whatever trouble occurred elsewhere down the line.  I watched the woman a few rows ahead of me rock back and forth, gently at first then more intensely, in the only double seat that was occupied by only one person.  At one point she whispered something to the empty seat next to her, then began to weep.

A scene like this one isn’t uncommon on this train.  Still, I thought to myself, Okay, I think might have had enough.

I’m not sure how I feel about having this reaction.  Yesterday, I listened to the podcast “How Schizophrenia Works” on Stuff You Should Know, a very pleasant review of a splice from Brain and Behavior.  A couple things struck me: 1) The recovery rate for schizophrenia in developing nations is higher by a full third than it is in industrialized nations.  Some hypotheses exist for why: a) lack (of lesser degree) of social stigma; b) more rural environment providing consistent employment that is typically more “schizophrenic-friendly” and noncompetitive.  2) Our fear of schizophrenics in this country is oftentimes unjustified.  If they were not violent people prior to exhibition of schizophrenic symptoms, they are unlikely to be violent schizophrenics.  Furthermore, most acts of violence, if they occur, are toward themselves and, as a distant second, toward their family.  In conclusion, the schizophrenics I run into day to day are little threat to me.

It also got me thinking of maintaining safety in general as a woman, which is a conversation I’ve had with a number of loved ones recently, each moving it in a distinct direction.  I’m particularly struck by the statistic (of course, I don’t remember the exact numbers) that states that a woman is much more likely to be the recipient of violence from someone she already knows.  Therefore, how protective of myself do I really need to be on this potentially “less safe” commute home?  I’ve been curious to know how much this caution is unnecessary, possibly even detrimental (to a small extent) to my sense of gender equality.


6 Responses to “controversial safety”

  1. Brian OKeeffe (@okeeffebrian) August 28, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

    I am with Grandma and vote for the safe but less convenient option.

    Brian in Cambridge

    • annaojesus August 28, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

      Hello “Brian in Cambridge” 🙂

      So, so nice to hear from you! Thank you for your input, and I do think I’m leaning that way…I guess it’s just always a bit of a feminist nuisance, ya know?

      More importantly, how have you been??

  2. Neal August 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    Make that two. I would go with safety, less convenience.

    • annaojesus August 29, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

      Thanks, Neal! I think I’ve been outvoted 🙂

  3. Jim Oppenheimer August 29, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

    I rather suspect the developing countries define the illness differently, address and respond to it differently, and the genuinely ill person in that setting has a significantly higher mortality rate, simply due to poor self-care and inadequate precautions in potentially hazardous situations due to impaired perception. Some of the folks under my care were plucked off the street because they were nearly being hit by cars, due to inattention (not apparently due to suicidal intent)
    It’s true, of course, that we often perceive danger where none objectively exists, but it is also true that sometimes the danger is real. Then too, some of us just don’t get it, and miss the obvious potential danger signs. I was headed back to the train station from Disneyland (CA) while on leave. A police car stopped and the patrolman angrily demanded where I thought I was going. I told him. He then pointed me in the correct direction, with the remark that if I kept going the direction I was headed, I would get my throat cut.
    Most folks with mental illness aren’t dangerous, but some potentially are. You really don’t want to be the individual who discovers that, lo and behold, this particular person turns out to be a danger after all.
    However, most danger comes from other sources.
    A basic background in self-defense techniques is an excellent idea. I believe in keeping some object on your person, immediately accessible, that can double as a weapon in a pinch. Know how to use it to take the other down if need be.
    Meeting potential threats with steady confident eye contact that says, “You don’t really want to mess with me.” is a great way to get some predator to pick someone else.
    And finally, a bit of rocking, off-key singing and talking to your imaginary friend will turn off a lot of those potential troublesome folks also.

    How ’bout that Irene?

    • annaojesus August 29, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

      Jim, I always love your comments. Thank you.

      I agree with you, especially regarding the potentially confounding variables. I haven’t done the research, but the statistic is based on two studies performed by the World Health Organization (one in the 60’s, then a more recent one correcting for the variables not initially considered). I think one potentially true observation is that schizophrenics tend to fare better when they’re not in a huge, overly stimulated urban environment, which is exactly where most of them end up in industrialized nations. But your points are well taken.

      And I agree with you about safety. Particularly with a partner to consider, I’ve edged closer toward being safer rather than sorry and averting risk when possible, as I ask John to do the same for me–I’m sure you feel similarly in your marriage.

      I should try to learn some self-defense. I have a pretty mean jab and right hook, taught by none other than Eric Oppenheimer, but the possession of an instrument of some kind might be in my future.

      Thanks for the comments, Jim! Miss and love you very much!

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