Reality: Women are targeted


Samantha O'Connor

Walking alone, 16 year old girl, tries to locate her car in a dark parking lot.

Jillian Garcia and Samantha O'Connor

“No it’s okay, I can walk home.” “15-year-old Commerce Township girl still missing nearly two weeks after leaving to take a walk.” — Fox 2, Detroit, August 30, 2022. 

“I think I’m going to ride my bike.” “Women riding bike near Russell Industrial Center kidnapped, raped by men in van.” — Detroit Free Press, October 3, 2017

“Never mind, I’ll just take the bus.” “Girl With Disabilities Sexually Abused and Raped on School Bus, Lawsuit Says” — The New York Times, March 8, 2020.

“Maybe getting an Uber will be safer for me.” “Woman says she jumped out of moving Uber to escape driver who tried to kidnap her in Detroit.” — Click On Detroit, June 19, 2019. 

   Women are a target for violence. Not surprisingly, many West Ottawa women have had scary experiences. 

   Jr. Grace Conkright works the front desk at a local hair salon; when she was helping a client, she noticed a middle-aged man walk past the front windows of the salon. “When I looked back up he was staring at me through the window. I tried to brush it off like I was making it a bigger deal than it actually was. I glanced up to see if he was still there, and he was. He was still staring at me. Maybe he thinks I look like someone he knows?  I thought. Again, I was convincing myself,” Conkright said. 

   She decided to go to the back of the salon and wait for him to leave, but he didn’t. As the night went on she tried to distract herself just by focusing on her job. Conkright said,  “When I looked up, and across the street, I saw the same man staring directly at me. I started to get really uneasy at this point.” She tried her best to keep herself relaxed because she didn’t want to worry any clients. 

   At the end of the night, Conkright closed by herself. “I was nervous about going out back where I was parked because I had a fear of him being out there,” Conkright said. When a coworker left, everything seemed to be fine for her to walk out to her car, at least she thought so. 

   As she walked to her car, she saw the man walking towards her. He kept calling out to her. ‘Come here Hon; I need you to come here; I have something for you,’ he said. As soon as she heard him calling out to her, she tried to get to her car as fast as she possibly could. Conkright said, “I could feel him behind me. I could hear him calling me names like ‘baby and hon,’which makes me cringe so much thinking back to it, gross.  

   I had my pepper spray in hand. He kept asking me to come over to him and was getting closer to me. I turned around and sprayed it. I then ran to my car and sped out of the parking lot as fast as possible. I could barely see the road because my eyes were filled with tears and my hands were shaking.” 

   On her way home, it was a lot for her to process. This was one of the scariest nights of her life and an experience that she will continue to share with others.

   In October, Sr. Chloe Duckworth had just gotten done with volleyball practice when she noticed her gas tank was on “E”. She drove to the nearest gas station at Family Fare. When she pulled into the parking lot, there were four other cars getting gas, so she knew she was safe. 

   As soon as she put the pump in her tank the cars left, except for an old man in a gray van. The van began to circle Duckworth’s car so she pretended to be on the phone with her dad so he would leave. 

   The phone call didn’t bother him because he started to roll his window down. “It was the one day of the week that I forgot to bring my sweatpants and I was standing in my shorts and a baggy sweatshirt I was slowly pulling down to cover myself. ‘You’re asking for it.’ He said again and again and again as he was circling closer to my car,” Duckworth said. 

   As he spoke to her, Duckworth stopped the gas and rushed into her car. She drove away as fast as she could, but he followed. “I did the four right turns that my dad taught me, and then did it again. He was still there,” Duckworth said. Duckworth took one more right turn and the man gave up and disappeared. She went straight home but could barely process what had just happened to her. 

   Sr. Kira Guerrin works as a food runner at a local restaurant. “I brought a table their breakfast, first giving the man his food and then turning to give the two women their food. To get my attention, he pats my butt and rudely demands, ‘Hey! These are supposed to be hashbrowns.’ Because of how much the food service industry’s salary relies on tips, I nervously smiled and told him I’d get him his hashbrowns,” Guerrin said. 

   Guerrin was scared to tell anyone what had happened. She contemplated whether the scenario was worth telling, or if the whole scenario was even a big deal. But this uncomfortable feeling wouldn’t leave her alone and so decided to speak up.                                       

   Each of these girls has been assaulted or harassed in some way when they were alone. Conkright and Guerrin were both just trying to do their job and Duckworth was just trying to get gas. 

   This is incredibly frustrating to women, Duckworth said, “In this experience, I used every technique I learned to protect myself and it still didn’t work. I blamed myself for forgetting my sweatpants and believed him when he told me I ‘asked for it.’ To this day, I have not gotten gas by myself.” 

   A lot of times women try to blame themselves for what happened to them. Guerrin said, “Women are constantly silenced in situations like this. They fear speaking out about events where they are treated like garbage. My advice is no matter how scary it seems, stand up for yourself and tell someone when you feel uncomfortable or violated because no matter how ‘valid’ someone may view that feeling, you matter and deserve to be treated with respect.”

  There are many precautions you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. It is crucial to be aware of your environment and pay attention to where you are. Local police officer, Jerry Navarro said, “It is important that you always check your surroundings before exiting your vehicle or home.” 

   Always prepare ahead of time before it’s too late. Being aware of your surroundings plays an important role in being prepared for the things that happen around you. “You always want to park in a well-lit area and if you cannot find a place that is well lit, always call and let someone know where you are and stay on the phone with them until you reach a safe place,” Navarro said. 

   Letting someone have your location and knowing your plan is a great precaution to take so if something seems out of the normal then they can take action and do something about it. “Be ready for anything that could happen, whether you take a self-defense class or get pepper spray to keep on you at all times,” Navarro said.