More Than Self Defense, We Need Empathy

When I was a teenager, I was sent to a Scared Straight program and was made to visit a prison for a day. If nothing else, the experience of being looked at, talked to, and treated like prey gave me empathy for the weak and outnumbered.

From the time I was very young, I was almost constantly bullied and ridiculed, something I never got used to, but I adapted. There is something intrinsically inhumane about bullying, but it the experience in the prison was different. It was actually inhuman. It was animalistic.

Bullying hurts emotionally and psychologically, but I could feel this fear and discomfort physically. It was creepy and life altering.

Imagine for a moment that you experienced this feeling every time you are outside and alone at night, or when you walk past a group of men, any group of men, or when you find yourself alone with someone who is bigger and stronger than you.

Imagine if every day you are looked at, talked to, and treated like prey. How long would that need to go on before you actually felt non-human?

I am not saying that all big, strong men behave like or should be treated like predators. I’m not saying that every group of men behaves like a prison gang when a woman walks by. What I am saying is that we should have some empathy and compassion when a woman says she has felt like prey at some point in her life and that she was, or still is affected by it in a deeply emotional, psychological, and physical way. We should not dismiss it. We should listen and think about what we can do better to make the people around us feel safer and more empowered as humans.

We are supposed to take care of each other. If not us, then who?

The thoughts above were prompted by my reading and contemplating the meaning of this article by a woman about how even self-defense training is not always enough to make women feel safe.

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