Last month, I became unwillingly linked with thousands of others in the UK by being robbed by someone on a moped. Because it would seem life as an inner-city female isn’t quite difficult enough to navigate already, a crime phenomenon that favours the violation of young women is rising fast.
It happened almost too quickly to even recall. It was 7pm and I was standing on one of the busiest roads in Islington, metres away from my brother’s flat. After a few paused seconds, two ballsy men and one speeding moped joined forces to mount the pavement, rush towards me and halt just in a position that had me compromised. A cold dose of eye contact and a shady magic trick later, I had joined the greatly oversubscribed club of moped mobile phone theft victims. And there it was; one embarrassingly quickfire encounter that reminded me that in the face of danger, in the UK’s official worst place to be a woman, I was powerless.
As my instincts kicked in and I ran straight back up to my brother’s flat, the moments that followed prompted revelations that would keep me riding the shockwaves of the mugging for weeks to come.
First up, a dead-end police response. It was only minutes before a call was put in to report my incident, during which I had managed to pull together the exact location, half a number plate and the best physical description of the offenders I could articulate. The outcome? A tired reply which informed me that due to government-approved cuts, police numbers have hit a record low, which meant my case (plus the confessed 700 identical cases within the area) didn’t reach the priority list. No track-down, no follow-up, no visible hope of theft numbers falling.
The officer’s words hit my mind hard. Not only did this bring me an immediate feeling of inadequacy and embarrassment for reporting the crime, it also created a stark and vivid picture of what axeing our public services funding might actually begin to look like. My case was closed the following morning.
Secondly, it was my own words. Once the shock started to wear off, I heard myself exclaim, "Thank God they didn’t have acid on them!” That’s right, I stopped to look up and thank heaven that my brush with low-level crime didn’t result in a life-altering attack. Was I lucky? Or does the average woman deserve to feel completely confident and free of the fear of harassment while walking home, wherever she lives? The ridiculousness of my thankful statement left me asking questions about what stage we, as a society, have really got to in 2017?
Our responses to negative situations usually expose something of where our minds are at. Mine evoked a mixture of serious frustration, fear (that I wasn’t aware belonged to me), a determination to step forward stronger and a desire to raise awareness around this disturbing trend. Every part of me wants to charge us to go out from here, bold and unfazed, waving our phones around in the darkest of streets while remaining totally untouched, because – of course – we should all be able to. But the reality is, for now at least, city culture isn’t there yet. So instead, let's identify the communities around us, share our stories with one other, be aware of our fears, keep street-savvy and continue to respond in a spirit of confidence and self-assurance.