There’s been a shocking amount of alcohol-and-pack-mentality-fueled violence reported in my local media of late. It seems that every day there is a battered man (usually young) showing off stitches and bruises in the newspaper after being set-upon by a ‘gang of youths’ whilst walking home or catching a train or buying some food at a convenience store or trying to enjoy himself on a night out. And with disturbing regularity, there are the stories of young men suffering permanently disabling brain or spinal injuries or of the families left behind when one of these men dies.
Going out for a night on the town, it seems, is becoming a risky proposition for young men.
Now in some ways this is nothing new. Young men have always faced a greater risk of violent death than young women – bar brawls being only one contributer to these. But much has been written about the confluence of factors (generational change, liquor licensing and planning failures, ineffective policing, ‘disaffected youth’) which are contributing to a rise in these random violent attacks. And of course the media want us to know all about it because it’s scary.
Tonight on the news I saw a police officer decrying the spate of violence after an unprovoked attack on a man walking home at 1:30am. He said (and I’m paraphrasing) ‘if it’s not safe to walk home at night, what is the world coming to?’
Of course, what he really meant was, ‘if it’s not safe for an able bodied, straight, cis-gendered, white man to walk home at night, what is the world coming to?’
Because if you’re not part of that privileged group of people (of which the police officer appeared to be a member, incidentally) then feeling unsafe whilst out alone at night is pretty much situation normal. This ‘new’ spate of attacks and the resulting fear is nothing new to many of us. Certainly not to women.
I don’t walk around at 1:30 am on my own. I never have. In the past when I needed to catch public transport at night, I got off at well-lit staffed stations with a taxi rank rather than brave the walk home (and then kept my fingers crossed that the taxi driver wouldn’t assault me). At the very least I made sure a housemate was expecting me and would leave the light on. I never go out for a ‘night on the town’ without at least one friend along. I don’t like to stop to buy petrol late at night. Riding public transport or using public toilets when not many people are around are uncomfortable situations for me. If I’m near a close-knit group of young men – pretty much anywhere – I feel my alertness rise.
And it isn’t just me who feels this way.
Now of course there is nothing positive about this current spate of street violence. The images of these bruised and damaged young victims move me and concern me.
But let’s get some perspective. There are plenty – more than can be counted – of bruised and damaged victims of rape and assault, of harrassment and cruel jibes, of racism and bigotry – whose faces never get on the TV news and whose stories go untold.
If you’re an able-bodied, cis gendered, straight white man and you don’t like feeling afraid when you walk home at night – do us a favour and think about that a little. Think about how lucky you are to have the privilege to know anything different but fear when out alone. Think about what you can do to make it so that not only people like you, but all people, can take public transport or walk or roll or stroll more safely in the public domain. Think about what it feels like to be afraid of harrassment, violence or rape your whole life. Think about when you or people you know might contribute to the fear that others feel.
And change that behaviour. Now.