Attacks, Not Accidents Prompt Women To Turn Off Their iPods…When They Actually Do

Taken from here.

If our readers are any indication, when you see a woman out for a run without headphones on, it’s not because she’s being cautious–it’s probably because she forgot them at home. According to a poll I took last week about safety and outdoor exercise, followed by several conversations with readers, very few actually do or would considering venturing out for a walk or jog without their iPod or other music device. And when they do, it’s not the danger of traffic accidents that they cited as the reason. Instead, if women are turning off their devices, they’re doing it to protect themselves from all-too-frequent assaults.

Despite the dangers, many women who I spoke with admitted that they still use their mp3 players while out and about, because, they said, it’s an essential part of working out and walking to get around–and one that they don’t feel that they should need to give up because of a few irresponsible drivers or potentially dangerous individuals on the street.

Which, to me, makes total sense; the idea that a pedestrian who is otherwise paying attention needs to be so vigilant about distracted drivers or the threat of an assault by a stranger that they can’t have some music or a podcast playing at a reasonably quiet level feels pretty paranoid…and victim-blamey.

But what I found most interesting from talking to women about this is that very few had even considered the danger of crossing through an intersection or walking along a busy street with headphones on. Instead, the vast majority of women would consider unplugging or turning down their music to reduce their risk of an attack or assault by a stranger–something that, according to statistics, is a pretty legitimate concern, and seems more preventable than an accident with a driver who’s not paying attention to pedestrians in or near the street.

Far and away, the threat of stranger danger was a much more powerful force in changing the behaviors of young women who listen to mp3 players while walking, jogging, and cycling.

And yet, there are no public health outreach campaigns about headphones and random attacks by strangers. There’s more than enough information about the risk of crossing in an intersection or even just walking around while texting or listening to Fresh Air…but no actual citizens seem to be very concerned. Moreover, many women think that those instructions just indicate the level of distraction that many drivers experience from texting or having a conversation–and see traffic accidents as preventable, if drivers would pay better attention, too.

Does that mean that public health officials are just out of touch with what’s really making women nervous? Or do they just think that it’s common sense to keep your music low or off while walking around to help avoid attacks–in spite of the fact that many of us have mp3 devices solely for the purpose of walking or running outside with them?

Either way, there’s a disconnect between what worries women, and what public officials and researchers think are dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists–but regardless of the reasons, no poor decision or violent tendencies by another person seem to be enough to keep women from engaging in a behavior that they enjoy.

Image: Thinkstock

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