At a dinner party last night, I found out that a friend of mine was assaulted and robbed just outside of her home this weekend. She lives in a nice neighbourhood in London where you wouldn't expect something like that to happen. Her attackers more than likely were from somewhere else and had come to the area intent on doing what they did. Physically she's fine. Fortunately, a car slowed to go over a speed bump scaring off her attackers after they had robbed her, but before they could go further. Emotionally, however, I would imagine that it will take quite some time for her life to return to a semblance normality and that she may never really feel safe in her neighbourhood again.
This event sparked a discussion of the things we do for safety when walking alone at night. A few of us, including me, have 'tough walks'. (We modelled them and ended up looking like a bit like the Ministry of Silly Walks) We made jokes about how acting like you're insane would keep attackers at bay, but then acknowledged the fact that mentally ill and/or homeless people are victims of assault more often than not. Coming across groups of adolescents or a gathering of drunken men outside a pub were situations we all found most threatening. All of us agreed that being aware of our surroundings was very important. However, when you are close to home you feel safe and if there is a group of attackers hiding in the bushes awaiting the chance to strike, there isn't much you can do.
I woke up this morning thinking of my friend and of the horrid violation she must be feeling. As I mentioned before, this occurred right around the corner of her own house. She was simply coming home in the evening in an area where this type of thing is a highly rare occurrence. She really should have been safe. It wasn't like she was doing the stupid things I've done. When I think about the amount of times I have wandered through the East End late at night on my way to an ex's place, slightly provocatively dressed and slightly inebriated, it gives me pause. As much as I love the East End, it's not exactly known as London's safe haven. I've also made some pretty stupid decisions once while I was being followed on the tube late at night. I'm lucky I got out of that unscathed. I've also come home to my own flat late at night in a less than sober state feeling very secure because, like my friend, I also live in an area where these things rarely happen.
Even in your own neighbourhood you're never really free from harm. I guess we must always remember that.