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When you don’t know anyone you feel isolated and afraid

In some of the 'safe' suburbs of the Bay Area California, life is not the idyllic picture painted by society. Behind the row houses and sunshine, women often live in fear and experience moments that would seem to belong in a horror movie. In this interview we discussed three times in a young woman's life where her safety was lost, even in her own home. The interview concludes with a few questions about how to make her neighborhood safer and her voice on how to change the neighborhood.

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The following are three events that took place during puberty and early adulthood in a young, white, middle class woman’s life, while growing up in the San Francisco Bay area of California.
 
The chase of three young women:
The first event happened while in Junior High, three friends and I were walking in broad daylight when we noticed a man following us. We took off and he gave pursuit, we ran into an outdoor mall and ducked into the first store we could find. The store was nice enough to let us use their phone to call our parents and get picked up. By the time we got our wits the man had disappeared.
 
Walking home from school:
My first year of High School, I was walking home and took a shortcut down a small street. The street ran by an old cement factory and a row of run down houses. While walking a man began following, getting closer and closer. I took off running and he pursued me. I ran a couple of blocks to an Auto Parts store, which has since closed. From there I called my parents, who couldn’t come to pick me up. I was forced to wait in the store until I felt safe enough to finish walking home. Later on the cement factory was torn down, housing was put in and the row of dilapidated houses were freshened up. When the factory was torn down several transients were evicted from the area, possibly one of them had been the one that chased me.
 
The peeping Tom:
In my early 20’s, I was living in a small cottage with a friend in front of a larger home. The house was on a street that bordered one of the less desirable neighborhoods in the city. It was the middle of the night between 0200 and 0300 and I woke up to go to the bathroom. For some reason I looked out of my bedroom window, which faced the street, and not more than five feet from the window a man was looking in. I freaked out, woke up my roommate and we both saw him looking in. We weren’t sure that he was committing a crime, so we didn’t call the police. We turned on all the lights and made a lot of noise, when we looked out again he was gone.
To this day I am terrified of that night. When I am home alone, sometimes I will remember that night, it was out of a horror movie, and then I can’t sleep.
 
These some of the improvements she feels could help to make her neighborhood a better and safer place for women and children:
- “ Put in a lot more streetlights, they don’t need to stay on all night, but I would like to have lights that come on at twilight and stay on for a few hours past sundown.”
- “Create a positive police presence, I don’t want to see police only when there has been an emergency showing up in their cars, I’d like to see the police walking the neighborhood and chatting and getting to know the people who live here.”
- “Make the neighborhood look nice, fix the sidewalks, clear out the empty lots of overgrowth, put lights in the sidewalk to attract people to take evening walks, which will reduce crime.”
-“Try to encourage neighborhood BBQ’s or gatherings. Like block parties, although the local park does Zumba, there are not a lot of community activities here.”
 
The last question I asked was, “What would you like to tell people to do that will make the communities safer?”
This was her reply.
 “It takes neighborhood participation, lighting, a friendly police presence (not the we are here for the emergency police, but a relationship between the police and community). When people take ownership and pride in their area that lends itself to a safer community. When you know everyone on your block and they all know one another the area becomes safer. Welcoming people to the neighborhood. Our neighbors brought us housewarming gifts when we moved in two years ago and we still know them and it makes us feel safer. Inviting people over builds a community.”
At this point she paused for several moments before finally saying, “When you don’t know anyone you feel isolated and afraid!”

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