Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Its a man's world...

How far we have come....or have we?

So the other night I watched a documentary about Internet Dating (yes, my life is this exciting).  In between interviewing a selection of people who were slightly more on the side of 'deluded' than not,  random statistics would display.  One of these was....

  • 80% of women involved in Internet Dating were concerned about meeting a serial killer.
  • 80% of men involved in Internet Dating were concerned about meeting someone fat.

This statistic highlights to me not only the general differences between men and women (the Mars vs. Venus thing), but more importantly, the difference in 'levels of fear' between men and women.

It is a fact of life that a man in suburban Australia could walk out of his house at dusk and jog down a bike path, alone, with his headphones on and not have a single concern about his safety.

But the majority of women in suburban Australian would probably choose to not jog at dusk, or not jog where they may be isolated or hidden from view or would choose to jog with a friend.

A couple of years ago while on holiday in Adelaide, I decided to talk a walk from my hotel in North Adelaide towards the city along the river.  The Adelaide River flowed in a deep cleft with the footpath running parallel alongside it and steep banks on either side.  It was early afternoon during the middle of the week.  The scenery was lovely but I couldn't help feeling vulnerable as I was out of sight and earshot for a lot of the walk.

I didn't see any other women during my walk but passed 2 or 3 men coming in the opposite direction.  I remember thinking to myself that as they approached they are probably summing me up in terms of physical appearance e.g. nice boobs, too fat, middle aged, etc.  whereas as I approached I was summing them up in terms of how much they looked like a sex attacker as opposed to a normal jogger :)

So are our fears founded?

A recent media release from the Australian Bureau of Statistics contained the following figures -

  • In 2010, there were 17,757 recorded cases of sexual assault (thats 48 cases a day).  But most experts agree only 18% of sexual assault cases are ever reported.
  • 85% of these were against women.
  • Disturbingly, 25% of these (1 in 4 cases) were against girls between the age of 10 to 14 years.
  • In comparison, men were more likely to be victims of homicide (62% to 38%) and robbery (65% to 35%).

I don't think it's too far a stretch to say that men, as a gender, are more violent and sexually predatory than women.  Other factors, such as lower socio economic status/lower education status also play a significant part in sexual assault cases.

These statistics are disturbing, but for many women, is it really a case of 'fearing the fear'?

For example, I follow a great blog from Greg @ Hiking Fiasco who takes all types of interesting walks and hikes around Victoria.  I've read quite a few of his 'hiking fiascos' and thought to myself, oh that sounds like a good walk, I wouldn't mind doing that one....but none of my friends are really the hiking type (well, not that I know of) so I would probably have to go on my own.

The first question that comes to my mind is 'how safe would I be walking on my own?'  and I'm not talking about falling down a ravine.  Realistically, what would be the chances of being either attacked or sexually assaulted while hiking down a walking path?

I think we can probably assume that 99.99% of the people also out hiking on any given day are doing so because they like to hike.  We can also probably assume that 99.99%  of those aren't prone to spontaneous sex attacks (although Greg has come across amorous hiking couples /potential naturists before!).  So what does that leave me with....a 0.01% chance that a demented sex attacker is walking on the same trail that I am.  So should I be concerned or not.....or am I in fear of 'the fear' of being attacked/sexually assaulted/killed and buried in a shallow grave.

In any event, sometimes I wish I could be a man for just one day to get some sort of sense of the psyche and drive behind them.  And I really wish every man could be a woman for just one day to get a sense of how it feels to be vulnerable (it would be excellent if this body/mind swapping could also occur during my PMS days hahaha).

I'd be interested to know how you feel about this topic.  Do you feel vulnerable/fearful in certain situations or do you think we fear the fear itself?


  1. I would say I err to the anxious/fearful side when it comes to random stranger danger. It is a combination of the randomness scaring me, and that I have had a few bad experiences. I know the majority of crimes are committed by intimately known people. I am lucky in that I don't have anyone in my life with addiction or violence issues, so I guess it stands to reason that this kind of generalised "unsafe" feeling has to be pinned on random crime.

    I am a big believer in the ideas out forth in the book the "gift of fear". I do think that reacting to incidents with enough concern in the past has kept me safe, and who knows if my actions otherwise have kept me from being a target?

    Now the fear doesn't really stop me from doing anything I want or need to do ... like I can still sleep alone in the house though I feel safer with my partner home. I am not out in the nightlife cause that's not my stage of life any more. My real concern is the fear I have for my daughter, that 25% statistics chills me to the bone. Will I be able to give her her right to be out in the world, going to the park by herself before she is too old to want to play at a park? Catching PT to and from school? Going out for the day into the city with friends and so on? To be frank at this point I find it hard to imagine. I am hoping I feel more confident as the time approaches.

  2. Eloise, thanks for the mention! An interesting post and I guess it would take a monster reply to try and address everything in it.

    I always think the media doesn't help when it comes to fear. It was even addressed back in Michael Moore's 'Bowling for Columbine'. The western world is 'safer' than it has ever been, but the level of fear is higher than ever.

    People talk of the old days when it was supposedly 'safer'. but it wasn't. Some of the worst crimes I can think of happened in the 60's and 70's. Think of the Beaumont children as one example. There wasn't that sense of fear then though and it's hard to believe, but statistically crime rates have gone down. Even driving a car is safer now! I could go on and on, but it's almost dinner time :)

    You would be insanely unlucky to come to grief whilst out walking in the places I go! It would almost be lightning strike odds whilst you're holding a winning Tattslotto ticket at the same time :)

  3. My understanding is that the level of fear is disproportionate to the actual risk. Every night we inivite into our home TV shows like CSI, and SVU, and Criminal Minds, Numbers, that though entertaining, continually invite those crimes into our everyday psyche. There is no relief from the threat, because the threat is used to entertain us. Interesting topic, and I actually don't have a problem going for a walk at dawn or dusk, that is after I have talked myself out of being overly concerned.

  4. I agree Greg. I think the chances of anything happening while out hiking are very remote when you actually look at the odds. The funny thing is, after I had written this post, I had to catch an evening train into the city and back again (coming home around 11pm) and I had at least 3 people say to me 'oh, do you think that's safe? Maybe you should drive in.' Turns out I made it there and back again (including walking back to my car in the car park) perfectly safely!


Thanks for commenting, I appreciate you taking the time xxx

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