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Pauline Lerner

June 24, 2005 at 6:29 AM

I was mugged last night around 10:15 PM as I walked home from the bus stop. A man came up behind me quietly on a dark part of the path. He grabbed me from the rear and demanded my money. He pushed me around, moving me off the path towards a wooded area, and pawed me. At times he grabbed me around the neck or struck me on the back of my neck with a blunt object. I screamed for help a few times and tried jabbing him with my elbow, but he stayed behind me most of the time, so I couldn’t poke him in the eye, throat, knee, or shin. I couldn’t even get a good look at him. I gave him all the money I had with me, but he didn’t want my wallet or cards. It could have been a lot worse. I wasn’t harmed physically and all I lost was about $35. Nevertheless, I was really shaken up. When I got into my home, I called the police. They were familiar with the situation. There have been several similar muggings in my condo complex recently, presumably by the same guy. One of my neighbors was mugged recently in broad daylight as she stopped to get her mail just outside the door to her home. Several policemen came out in response to my call, including one with a K9 Corps dog, who sniffed around very impressively. The police also sent out a helicopter with a floodlight to search the woods near the place where I was attacked. The light was very, very bright. With a sense of irony, I thought, “Wow. I must be important.” One of the policemen recommended that I stay in the well lit areas of the parking lot at night and that I get and carry pepper spray. They said that crooks like this are usually intimidated by such tactics.

Now what am I going to do? I don’t have a car and I often go out at night alone. Even if I take public transportation, I have to walk home from the bus stop. Even daylight is not a cover, since my neighbor was mugged right near her door in broad daylight. Fortunately, it doesn’t get dark until late at this time of year. Around the winter solstice, darkness falls around 4:30 PM. I could deal with going out at night, staying in well lit places, and carrying pepper spray near my home. What would I do elsewhere? Tonight I wanted to go to an event that I’ve gone to for several years, over a two week period of time, at night. Even before tonight’s mugging, I was concerned about walking from the Metro station to my destination, a big hotel. Last year, I felt creepy walking there at night by myself. The streets were almost deserted and, worse still, my walk took me across a grassy area and then up and over a dark, deserted footbridge with turns and corners. I was thinking about trying to get a cab from the Metro station to the hotel tonight.

So many women are affected by such crimes. We are affected even more by fear of crime. We don’t go out at night, especially to places where we feel uncomfortable, because of the fear. Single women are especially vulnerable, and I resent that. I feel that I can’t go places and do things that other women can because I don’t have a man to watch over me. Damn!

One of my male friends told me that he, too, is concerned, not only about me, but also about himself. Men get mugged, too. I had forgotten about that. Now I remember something about a trainer I had in a gym about 10 years ago. He is African American, big, bulky, and in great shape. He lives in a middle class neighborhood. One night he was held up at gunpoint just outside his home. He told me that the gun was almost against his chest, and he was awfully close to being dead. He is very sensitive to the fears of women. He often crosses a street to avoid walking behind a woman, especially a white woman. A few white men have told me that they do the same thing.

Crime stalks everyone, men and women, black and white, at any time of day and in any neighborhood.

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