This is a subject that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. I live in a fairly sizable city in Texas, so we have quite a few homeless people and panhandlers. My parents have always been drawn to those less fortunate (which is probably where I learned my passions for others). Lately my parents have been traveling out to various groups of panhandlers asking what they need. Naturally these people were surprised when someone spoke to them, as very few people engage with them other than slipping them some cash on occasion (if they’re lucky). Out of their surprised state came an outpouring of stories. I remember almost all of their stories, but one stood out in particular.
One of the women in the group under the tree that my parents spoke with confided in my mom. During their conversation my mom asked the woman where she was staying and if she had anywhere constant that she could go. The woman pulled my mom off to the side and whispered to her in a cryptic tone, “I don’t want anyone to hear me, but I live under (a tree by ____ Road). I don’t want them to hear me because sometimes when my husband leaves men will try to come around and I don’t want them to.” I instantly began to weep and asked my mom if she thought the woman had been raped or sexually assaulted before. None of us really know for sure, but it is certainly a high possibility. Even though it probably happens all the time in the homeless setting, it is something I have never really thought about- until now. Here are people that the world views as annoying, gross, or pretty much shit. Yet, they are PEOPLE; they have real problems (obviously, but people don’t seem to care or recognize that fact), real feelings, and multiple dangers. Who knows how many of these women have been raped, and I am sure that they feel like there is nothing they can do about it. Hell, I am some white bread girl, and I felt I couldn’t do anything about what happened to me. I want to research this more, because there needs to be a program for homeless women who have been sexually assaulted/exploited, or who fear sexual assault/exploitation. There may already be one, but this is just the beginning of my research. I want to talk to this woman, and other women like her. There has got to be something I can do for them. It’s terrible enough that most women in general don’t feel they can report or get help, but it is even worse when you’re living on the streets without any real resources (phone, internet, etc). There has to be a way to give them hope/help. Something to think about.
Note: Feel free to add any thoughts or ideas. I’m thinking a special rape crisis center for the homeless, or even something like free self-defense classes. I want to give the homeless some sort of hope that isn’t found in a bottle.