The faces on the wall

Someone in our condo complex keeps up with Honolulu Crimestoppers and posts the unsolved crimes in the neighborhood on the wall by the mailboxes. There has been one poster up since may, a week after we moved in, showing a police sketch of some nondescript guy, with the details of a rape that happened down the street, in broad daylight, someone ambushing a woman as she entered her apartment.I started to worry A few weeks later, another sketch joined it, similar enough looking to raise concern, someone a couple streets over had been raped in their apartment, someone had entered through the lanai door. I kept worrying.

But in the months since those sketches were posted, as they watch me as I collect my mail and head into my apartment, nothing further has appeared. I carry my pepper spray, but am comforted by the amount of foot traffic around me. Walking home at night after working late or going to the gym, past the buildings where other women have recently been assaulted, I feel safe, so many people are out. The little old woman putting food out for the stray cats. Nurses walking home from the nearby hospitals. Joggers. Dog walkers. People carrying shopping bags. Tourists at the hotel next door. The taxi drivers leaning on the hoods of their cars, waiting for a call. Its busy here whenever I go out. Busy with regular people, going about regular business. And while I keep the door locked when I am home alone at night, the danger feels less urgent.

Until a week ago when another sketch joined it, and I began to look over my shoulder again. Someone had been raped nearby, opened the door and a stranger had forced himself in, the face looked at home next to its forebears. I remembered to draw the blinds across my lanai door once again, leave a light on in the living room when I go to bed and Andy’s working late. I jumped when UPS rang the doorbell at 10pm the other night, I stalled opening it, looking out through a gap in the door slats, until the UPS guy asked if I wanted him to leave it. After he left I cautiously opened the door and yanked the box inside.

As an American woman, I have a one in six likelihood of being the victim of sexual assault. I am statistically much less likely to be assaulted by a stranger, but rather someone whom I am acquainted with. I am less likely to be assaulted by the man in the sketch, who is speculated to be Polynesian, but by someone who shares my skin color. From the media, I know that football players are not to be trusted. Statistically, I should have more fear of men who are more familiar to me, not the face on the wall. In fact, aside from my gender, I have virtually no other statistical risk factors for assault, I have far less to fear than most of those around me.

But I did fear, just like women always fear. We fear the unknown. We fear what the media tells us to fear. The media tends to humanize and forgive white rapists, but turns others into monsters. Monsters who we cannot relate to, who come out of nowhere and ambush us. Like being scared of the dark, its what we don’t see that frightens us. The fear that a knock at the door could bring life changing trauma and injury, not Christmas gifts from far away family.

That fear abated tonight, somewhat. They caught the guy, matched his DNA. But really, objectively, that doesnt change a whole lot for me personally. Comepared to many others, I am far less vulnerable.

But the faces still watched me as I came in tonight, late again. Reminding me not to get too cocky over my statistical privilege. That a knock at the door can still devastate, privilege doesn’t guarantee safety. Statistics only comfort so much.
They also remind me that there are those far less privileged, for whom statistics where not on their side. Each face represents a woman who is struggling with the aftermath of this one monster.

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