Here is my step by step guide to running at night in the city as a female:
7:40 pm - Wonder if you should use headphones, as you could not hear an attacker behind you if you use them
7:45 pm - Put in your headphones, but turn down the volume
7:46 pm - standing on the front steps, looking at the sky, ask "is it too dark already?"
7:50 pm - Running, looking at the trees in bloom, have the following argument with yourself: "I want to run on the gravel by the reservoir, my feet don't hurt so bad when I run on the gravel...yeah but there aren't any street lights over there...fine I'll run on the street...you are really going to let yourself be scared into doing something you don't want to do...I guess it isn't too dark..."
7:54 pm - Run, in place, at the bottom of the steps that lead to the reservoir. It's dark.
7:55 pm - On the gravel. Feet are happy, and the water looks so peaceful at night. Try to remember how much you like water at night.
7:56 pm - Run your fastest mile ever because you are a bit scared. Perhaps this is a good way to build up speed?
7:57 pm - Pass a couple, feel slightly more relaxed, couples are good, couples have cell phones, couples don't rape people
7:58 pm - Switch directions to stay in close proximity to the couple
7:59 pm - Look behind you.
8 pm - Slow way down at the curve, where it gets really dark.
8:01 pm - Turn around again.
8:02 pm - Look behind you.
8:03 pm - Try to force from your thoughts all the news stories you have read about women "foolish enough to go outside after dark alone."
8:04 pm - Look behind you
8:05 pm - See a man with a dog. Wonder if the dog is a trick to get women to trust him.
8:06 pm - Look behind you.
8:07 pm - Decide that your heart is beating too quickly, slow down, and suddenly feel the hard, solid pressure of a desperate need to get the fuck off the dark gravel path and into the streetlights right that second.
8:08 pm - Look behind you.
8:09 pm - Pass a man running, headphones on, looking unafraid and oblivious. Suppress your desire to clobber him.
8:10 pm - Look behind you.
8:11 pm - Start to feel that weightless dizzy kind of scared.
8:12 pm - Run like hell back down to the street, heading to the streetlight like a moth.
8:13 pm - Look behind you.
When I was in college I worked at a bar. At 2:30 a.m., when I was done for the night, the quickest way home was to cut through the Boston Common. Now, most ladies would take the longer way rather than risk it, but it made me mad that I had to walk a longer distance just because I was a girl. So I stuffed my tips into my underwear, held my wine opener corkscrew-out in my fist, and marched. I used to think that if they got to the money, they might be distracted for a split second, and I could gouge an eye out. I actually planned this, just in case. Only later did I realize both how stupid walking through the common was and how incredibly unfair it was that I had to picture gouging a human eyeball from its socket to make me feel safe enough to walk home.
I was reading an editorial in the New York Times this week in which Nicholas Kristof pointed out that the evidence in rape kits generally sits around, uninvestigated, for decades. Rape, and the manner in which it is treated as compared to other violent crimes, isn't something I hear many men discussing. It was refreshing to see it even mentioned in the paper, since it happens so often yet manages to stay out of the headlines. What he didn't mention, and what no one ever seems to mention, is that even on the nights when nobody attacks us we still have to live with the threat of it. It's like a living breathing thing, chasing us whenever we go out alone after dark. And it fucking pisses me off.