Sometimes I will get asked from my hometown friends (I am from a small town in Indiana), if I feel safe living in New York City. My answer has always been yes. I have only had one scary situation here where we got robbed and I spoke to the burglar without knowing he was burglarizing our apartment – it is a very LONG story and maybe something Kelly and I can share on a podcast episode sometime lol. However I wasn’t in danger and he was just a kid trying to steal laptops and iPhones at a party we were throwing.
I think what more scares me living here is that we as New Yorkers walk everywhere. Which means we walk everywhere at night and sometimes we do it alone. This is something that women do all over the world and almost always are safe. There just happens to be those few times when we are not. I wanted to share a personal story of what really changed my mindset in going out, drinking and making sure I got home okay because prior to that I really thought I was invincible and nothing bad could ever happen to me.
When I was a junior in college I studied abroad in Florence, Italy for a semester. For those that have been know that the city is very quaint and similar to NYC you walk everywhere. It is also a very safe city and right off the bat I felt secure there. The first 2 months my friends and I would always go out at night together, rarely bring our iPhones and generally only one credit card. This was mainly due to petty crimes like pick pocketing. After awhile we really began to feel safe and at home there so we weren’t always as cautious as we were in the beginning. One night during the week, one of my roommates and I decided to meet up with friends at one of the clubs in Florence. I was having so much fun that I realized, I had no idea where my friend was anymore and I really needed to get home because my head was beginning to spin from too much alcohol. So I left alone and hopped in a cab. The cab did not speak English so once we got over the bridge to the other side of the city of Florence I hopped out and began to walk the rest of the way alone. I remember I was wearing a necklace I had bought from Mango, a new white tank top, jeans, and a Michael Kors purse with my iPhone and wallet which included 70 euros, all of my credit cards and my drivers license. Thankfully I had taken my keys out in the cab and put them in my pocket.
As I walked around the corner to my apartment there was a group of about 4 men. No amount of alcohol that was in my body could keep me from that sinking feeling in my stomach. I knew immediately something bad was going to happen and I knew I was alone and defenseless. As I walked closer to my door the 4 men approached and without hesitation I started to hand them my purse. Which contained everything I owned except my passport. Things then began to happen fast, they pulled out a knife ripped my bag off me and in those moments all I could say was – please no. They then went to rip my jewelry off which in the process also ripped my tank top. They kept the knife pointing at me until they got all of my jewelry and just like that they ran. I realized I had my keys so I didn’t hesitate and ran inside. I couldn’t even make it to the elevator before breaking down. Breaking down because I put myself in that situation. Breaking down because nothing worse had happened. Breaking down that I was safe. It was an experience I have never forgotten and think about to this day. There are still nights I can’t fall asleep because I worry what could have happened.
The hardest part of the whole experience was calling my parents. They were so, so worried and felt so helpless being so far away. They asked me if I wanted to come home, but of course I didn’t. I had to figure it out and learn from that experience and I did. I, along with my friends in Florence, were 10x safer. We never went anywhere without each other and were always vigilant. There was also no way of getting a new cellphone or credit cards to me, so I had to communicate with my family via a small Italian phone and my laptop for the remaining 2 months. My mom had to wire me cash from my bank account in Ohio to this sketchy bank in Italy so I could pay for things. It was a huge learning experience, inside and out.
I share this not for pity but for others to hopefully never have to go through it. Living in NYC, I feel so safe but I also take care of myself, take care of others and others take care of me when in situations where we have drank too much. If you are ever in a scary situation always/always take an Uber, cab or taxi to your doorstep, even if that means giving step by step directions. If you are closer to a friends apartment and are too drunk to get home, stay with them!! If you have a friend that can barely stand, help them or take them home. We must always look out for one another, especially as young women. I cannot stress that enough. My other small piece of advice is to always have a phone charger or portable charger with you. I have had to walk home alone before at night because my phone died and there weren’t any cabs around to hail and I couldn’t call an Uber.
Finally – always stay aware. Stay off certain streets, call a friend if you need someone to talk to if walking alone, and try and walk behind big groups. NYC is an amazing city with so many humans on every corner, as with any city, the trick to being safe is being smart. Know your surroundings and follow your gut if you feel unsafe.