Safety on our streets is no longer a given. I remember as a child I used to go out and play all day without any thought for my safety. I’d meet up with friends with my jar in hand and we’d walk for miles up to the local pond to catch frogs and tadpoles. Then we’d race off up to the fields to play chase, pick dandelions to make chain necklaces, and bring a bunch home for Mum. My friends and I would usually come back home hours later, covered in mud and grass stains and the occasional shoe full of cow manure! My mum would be waiting at the front door wearing a scowl at the mess I was in. Yet, she would give me a big hug and send me in for a bath.
Those were perhaps more innocent times when women and children were safe, or so it seemed. Everyone looked out for one another and everyone knew what you got up to! In hindsight, perhaps they were no different to today. Today, we hear about assaults, muggings, and violence towards women, children and the elderly every day. The things I hear about in the media have me wanting to be more vigilant for my children’s safety, as well as my own. When leaving the safety of my home, I create strategies to keep safe.
Recently, my mother-in-law had her bag stolen at her local shopping centre while she was loading her shopping into the boot of her car. It only took a moment for the thief to grab the bag. This experience affected her in the most horrible of ways. The shock and anxiety she now feels will take some time for her to get through. Fortunately, she was not physically hurt, but the mental anguish and fear of it happening again has impacted her confidence. When she goes shopping now, she only takes the essentials — one payment card and a little cash for any incidentals in a small purse, all hidden on her person. She no longer takes her handbag, which carried her lipstick, comb, mobile phone and perfume, and a myriad items she kept ‘just in case’ they’re needed. Sadly, shopping is no longer a pleasurable experience for her.
The perpetrators don’t care how their crimes affect their victims. The physical, emotional and financial consequences for victims of crime usually outlive any jail sentence or penalty paid by the offenders. For some, it’s a long road to ‘getting back to normal’ and for others it’s a life sentence.
We can’t stay locked up in our homes, living in fear. As a community, we have to become less vulnerable. We need to look out for one another, just like we did in years gone by. We can do it. There will always be offenders, but now we need to increase our ‘street smarts’ and our sense of community needs to be stronger. Society has changed and continues to change — in more ways than we realise.