“I really don’t think I’ll ever feel safe…”
“I shouldn’t have to feel vulnerable just because I’m a woman.”
“I don’t want to feel helpless against men.”
19 women in East and South Los Angeles were ready to admit they had been physically assaulted because they were a woman. In a survey done on 45 women in the area, each and every one interviewed expressed their vulnerability when having to do anything alone—at any given time of the day—The common fear was the possibility of being stalked, being robbed, sexual violence and physical abuse.
4,978,951 women live in the County of Los Angeles according to 2018 statistics. Needless to say, women outnumber men by hundreds of thousands, yet there is a constant fear and concern of sexual violence and physical assault among women. In fact, the Los Angeles Police Department’s 2015 crime report shows that 116,500 crimes took place against women.
Not too long ago in the city of Inglewood, 24-year-old Kristina Hernandez was on her way home from work where West Century Boulevard meets South Prairie Avenue when she was assaulted and robbed for the first time.
The sun had just set and all she could see of her attacker was that he was a heavy-set Hispanic man. “I remember being shoved into a bush and violated,” Kristina said. She tried to push him away, but she felt ‘helpless and weak.’ “He stole my bag with my money, my I.D., and other personal things,” she said.
Usually Kristina would act cautious—having her cellphone in hand—in case of an emergency but it was a windy fall evening which forced her arms around her body for warmth, leaving nowhere for her phone but her back pocket. When the unnamed attacker grabbed and pushed Kristina down, she could tell her phone screen shattered onto the cement sidewalk through the corner of her eye. The Hispanic man quickly fled the scene shortly after grabbing her bag.
“I didn’t know what to do, just because I was cold and not able to have my own transportation makes me a target? I really don’t think I’ll ever feel safe again,” Kristina expressed.
Another woman felt inclined to tell her story in hopes that it would alert and prepare other women for unexpected situations. Ms. Diana Fielden graduated from college this past year in upstate California and recently moved back to East LA.
Diana was once sexually assaulted by a complete male stranger in a mall parking lot near her home. “A man came to me and said I should be a model and would make thousands of dollars, I was skeptical, and I knew he could tell[that] because he got aggressive,” she said.
Diana fled the shopping mall and began walking back to her car. Once aware that someone was closely behind her, hopeful that it was a friend of hers, she turned around and saw that it was that same man from earlier. “He pushed himself on me and when I fought back, he started cussing at me and got real angry…he eventually just took my phone and my purse and darted off,” she said. Diana believes more happened but stressed that’s all she wanted to remember.
Both women now always carry pepper spray in their bag and never walk alone at a public place when it’s dark out. Other women involved in the survey who have not been assaulted revealed that some of their biggest fears were being abused by a man. Dozens of these women actually plan their days and change their schedules around just to not put themselves in a problematic situation.
The Bureau of Justice statistics describe four different forms of assault: aggravated assault, which is a weapon being involved, simple assault, an attack without a weapon with minor or no injuries, assault, a physical or threat of attack and lastly violence—which includes rape, sexual assault and robbery.
“Violence against women is a major public health problem and a violation of human rights,” the World Health Organization stated. WHO focuses their efforts on extensive research and tests to discern effective ways to address and expose abuse towards women. Their research shows that victims of sexual assault, assault, or any form of emotional or physical abuse experience psychological, social, economic difficulties and their view of men and the world is forever changed.
One in three women worldwide, have been a victim of physical assault or sexual violence.