a PURSonal attempt

bag When we first got here there were three constant things that people would tell me:

1)  eat street hawker food - check 2)  go to the malls - quadruple check 3)  beware of purse snatchers - unfortunately, check

As of last week I can check off being a victim of a purse snatching attempt. I was walking home from the metro station, on the same two minute route that I always take, and on a very public and busy street, when two men on a speeding motorbike approached me. That's how they do it here, one guy drives while the other sits in the back and sees what he can get away with. It's a major problem here and whereas before it was common at night, it is now far too common to occur during broad daylight.

I've seen bikes on sidewalks before so I simply I thought that they were making a u-turn from the adjacent one-way street and I took steps to the side to get out of the way. But, within seconds, I felt and saw the guy sitting on the back pull my hand-purse, let go, and then speed away. I didn't realize what had happened until they were gone. I was in shock. Never in my life have I experienced a violation like that. Thankfully there were two women behind me who witnessed it and had it not been for their post-attempt company I don't think that I would have kept my calm the way I did. What was most troubling was how casual the encounter had been: the guy went for it but when he realized that I wasn't holding my bag loosely enough to snatch it easily, they continued on ... perhaps to the next victim. No big deal, just another afternoon and another drive-by.

Once at home I quickly locked the door behind me and started to process what had just happened. My mind started racing with questions like "how will I ever feel safe walking to the grocery store/metro/anything again?", "what if they had taken my bag, all of my things are in there!" or "why are we even living in a place where this sort of thing happens???"...

After a while I pulled myself together, thanking my lucky stars that it hadn't been worse. I've heard awful stories of women being dragged on the ground or getting their arm slit with a knife. I was unharmed and still had my possessions. I was one of the lucky ones.

I didn't leave the apartment until the weekend with Joe's company but now I'm feeling better and all the more wiser. Unless I'm taking a taxi door-to-door I shouldn't carry any unnecessary things, always use a cross body bag, keep phone and cards in my pockets, and don't wear anything so bright that makes me a quick target from afar. All very simple things but I absolutely hate that I even have to think about them. I hate that I have to be on guard walking down the street, clinching my bag. And I hate that I have to be mentally and physically prepared to react should anything happen (again).

It's a shitty way to feel when you walk outside and unfortunately I can't see any obvious actions from the local government to prevent it. They post up signs to "be careful" but how about having some security on the streets so that it doesn't happen in the first place? I have yet to see ONE police officer since we've moved here. Coming from a place like London where even though it had its own problems with crime, there was at least the backup of CCTV everywhere and there was always a cop nearby. In LA, well...I never really worried about anything, even when I lived near Skid Row. There may have been a lot of crazy drug addicts but they were harmless to people outside of their circles. Here you have multiple problems with street crime focused on women: motorbike purse snatchings, parking lot assaults, and street junction thefts where men on motorbikes break car windows and steal purses from the passenger seats during a red light. I mean, really??? What's even more sad is that it's all so common that some people have an "it is what it is" reaction to it. Take this story for instance. A girl gets attacked (and cut up) at a mall parking lot and the management says it happens everywhere and that it's not serious. Excuse me??? It totally is serious! {Sigh} I should stop before I get really carried away as I think I've made my point.

The thing is, Malaysia is a beautiful country with beautiful people and things to offer but if it wants to be the tourist and industrial draw that it's trying to be then those in charge need to get these problems under control. Women need to feel safe. And personally, I need to hone a different set of street smarts and be brave. There's too much good here to let a few a-holes get to me.