This breaks my heart.
Many girls in Chicago and Illinois “face serious violence in their lives,” including physical and sexual abuse, threats and injury in school, and assault on the streets, according to a new study called the “Status of Girls in Illinois.”
A Chicago Tribune article about the study included the following story:
“Eighteen-year old Chelsea Whitis tries to forget what happened that night two summers ago. While walking near her family’s home in southwest Evanston, a man grabbed her from behind and dragged her into a nearby alley. He ran off when a car turned into the alley.
Now a senior at Lane Technical High School in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood, Whitis keeps memories of the attack bottled up inside. She hasn’t had any professional assistance to help her cope.
‘I just feel like I’m never going to be safe,’ she said. ‘I’m so close to my house and I get attacked. … I never feel safe.'”
- Young Women’s Action Team members
Now Whitis is a member the Rogers Park Young Women’s Action Team and working to raise awareness about street harassment and domestic violence.
During my book research, I’ve come across too many women who similarly never feel safe. One of my chapters is devoted to women’s fear of attack in public and all of the ways they alter their lives to try to avoid it. It’s really important for people to understand that street harassment isn’t complimentary or harmless. For one thing, it reminds women over and over that they are vulnerable to attack and it seriously impacts their mobility and sense of safety. And for another, the harassment can include or escalate into assault and even murder. So yeah, that’s not harmless at all!
The Illinois study recommends that policymakers pay closer attention to the stories that girls share about their experiences so they know how to better address their needs, their fears. I agree 100%. Street harassment is rarely discussed outside of feminist and womanist circles as being a problem and it must be understood as such on a wider scale before we can really work to end it.
So, do you have any stories you want to share?