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.