Over the past weeks, we have all mourned the devastating loss of the three joggers in both New York, Massachusetts, and Michigan. I am saddened and outraged by these recent horrors and am left with an extremely heavy heart as I’ve tried to process the deaths of Karina Vetrano, Vanessa Marcotte, and Alexandra Brueger.
My heart is with those that lost their daughter, sister, friend, coworker, and loved one due to these indescribably tragic attacks. My thoughts are with anyone that has felt anxiety and fear creep into their world due to these horrors.
In trying to wrap my head around these tragedies, I have experienced overwhelming fear and sorrow. These three women were out for an afternoon jog, something that many of us do regularly. Karina, Vanessa, and Alexandra followed the restrictive unwritten rules of womanhood so many of us follow. They stayed in areas that they were familiar with, notified loved ones of their whereabouts before leaving, and made sure to run under protection of daylight. Sadly, these precautions were not enough to keep them safe.
Even if we have not experienced assault directly, the insidious trauma women have experienced throughout recent, as well as ancient history, keeps so many of us on guard. We are taught to be on high alert and constantly aware of our surroundings, especially when the sun goes down. Unfortunately, with the recent events, this fear has spread to the daytime and it infuriates me to think about the anxiety that it has caused. I am now faced with the decision to exercise within the limiting walls of my apartment on a nice summer day, or refuse to let these vicious acts prevent me from doing something that I enjoy. Are these the choices that I am left with? Having to choose between my safety and the freedom to do what makes me happy.
I hesitate to solely focus on the acts of running or exercising because this discussion is not limited to merely these activities. These events bring me to a greater point of the complexities around safety that so many women are faced with as they move around their world.
Over the years, I have often engaged in conversation with the men in my life around the daily safety measures that, as a young woman, I feel forced to take, and I am left baffled by the luxuries they are blessed with. They seem to take for granted that they can take public transportation alone and spend the entire ride playing a game on their phones, rather than thinking of every potential scenario that could happen and preplanning a safe route home. Unlike many women, most men don’t arm themselves with car keys wedged firmly between their fingers as they walk through a parking lot at night, or worry about being catcalled when walking down the street.
I long for the days when I don’t have to be nervous to pull over and get gas when I am traveling alone. I look forward to a time when college students don’t have to talk on the phone with a loved one as they walk home from a class. I hope for a time in which it is safe for everyone to go for a run in their neighborhood. I want to live in a world where I don’t need to share my location with a friend when I go on a blind date. I look forward to living in a world where I don’t feel I have to put objects in front of my door at night because I live alone. I hope that one day I can delete the safety apps off of my phone because they are obsolete. I wish that I could go through the day without having safety concerns take up space in my head.
I have hope that these things are possible, but it's going to take all of us to stand up and say NO MORE. Together as a community we can express that hope and show our solidarity by running in honor of victims. Many domestic and sexual violence programs across the country hold annual runs and walks to raise funds and awareness for their critical services. You can take part here in New Hampshire this fall by joining in the Kelly Mann Memorial 5K, Missy's Hope 5K, the Concord Walk a Mile in Her Shoes or any of the other events that support local crisis centers. Take part to honor victims like Karina Vetrano, Vanessa Marcotte, Alexandra Brueger, Kelly Mann and Missy Cantin Charbonneau, and run for all victims to show that you believe a world where safety and freedom from fear and abuse is possible.
Madison Lightfoot is an avid runner and the Training and Programs Coordinator at the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.