HuffPost Mari Kate Mycek HuffPost13 March 2018
Like many women, I am heartened by the Me Too movement and the spotlight it has put on sexual assault and harassment. It makes me want to fight harder to tell the stories of those whose voices are still going unheard ― especially those of women experiencing homelessness.
As a sociologist who studies food insecurity, I regularly meet with women who don’t have homes. Many times, what starts off as a conversation about food turns into a conversation about something else. They want to talk about how unsafe they feel in the world. They tell me they won’t go to certain food providers because they believe they’ll get harassed there ― or they already have been harassed there.
Harassment and abuse aren’t part of the public conversation surrounding food insecurity. They aren’t part of the conversation surrounding homelessness. Yet from what I’ve been hearing and witnessing ― and from what the research shows ― homeless women aren’t safe no matter where they go.
I once watched a man verbally attack a woman outside an emergency food provider’s doors, yelling at her until she cried. People tried to step in, but the man continued to scream about how the woman shouldn’t be allowed to go inside because she was “already so fat ― do you really need this food?” This happened eight months ago. The woman told me she hasn’t been back to that meal provider since.
I don’t have to return if I decide not to. But where can these women go?
I spoke with another young woman who told me she won’t go to certain soup kitchens because she knows the men there will hit on her from the moment she walks in the door until the moment she leaves. She was living in her car at the time and told me she sometimes would rather eat a bag of chips for dinner than go someplace to get a free meal and deal with men harassing her.