By Olivia London, Former Primary Prevention and Specialized Advocacy Coordinator
I wanted to go to a Beyoncé concert and I didn’t. Why? I didn’t have a buddy. And all of a sudden there was that just-below-the-surface anxiety that by going into a crowded concert stadium alone I would get kidnapped, dragged into a bathroom, raped, trafficked, lost forever, murdered, or some combination. Where does that anxiety come from? Many of us have heard all our lives to stick with a friend for safety and definitely never go out alone at night. It’s the best/only way to stay safe, right?! And if you’re anything like me, then you also love going places alone and are tired of worried voices telling you that it’s a bad idea.
Parents and people who care about us promote the buddy system because it offers a sense of safety and control in a world where we are bombarded with horrifying news stories. (Anyone else out there have a mom who calls regularly with updates on the latest in rape and murder news? ) But, I disagree with the premise that our buddies will be able to save us, or that they should have to.
If you want to go out alone, what would you need to feel safer? Going to an event, I want to park somewhere safe; walk from my car to the event through a well-lit, populated area, and know there are people at the event who will see and support me if I need help. Is that so much to ask? Instead of telling people to go everywhere with a buddy, let’s advocate for our cities and social spaces to put in the extra effort to make everyone feel safe, especially those of us who often don’t.
Whether going out to a concert, festival, bar, movie, or downtown stroll, we should all be able to safely engage in our communities, have fun, and live our best lives. And if we want that, we need to think about environmental and social changes that make people feel safe, with or without a buddy. Otherwise, a lot of people aren’t showing up and we deprive our communities of the vibrancy that’s possible when everyone can be there.
I am still pro-buddy. But let’s be real about what our buddies can or should do, and quit acting like the buddy system is the gold standard of safety advice. Sadly, none of my friends are master martial artists ready to fight off attackers. However, given the likelihood that abuse or violence will happen among acquaintances, friends, or partners rather than strangers, I want my buddies to have my back if they see me in an unhealthy relationship or a non-consensual situation. And I especially want them to step in to hold me accountable if I am responsible for that situation. Now that would be a buddy system I could get behind!
What are your thoughts on how to make our communities safer for everyone? What do you want to see at events and social spaces to feel confident going out alone?