Yesterday I was verbally and physically attacked by a mentally ill, homeless woman on the New York City Subway. Not only did she try to harm me, she truly had the desire to murder me. She told me this.
I do not blame this sick woman. Although she is the one who tried to slit my throat, suffocate me, and light me on fire, I do not feel she is responsible for her lack of mental health. The system and the system alone is where my blame lies. She is their responsibility, and if she gets hurt or hurts anyone else, they are the ones who are at fault.
This woman was no child. There is no chance this was a first offense. This woman was extremely delusional and unwell. There is no reason she should have been on the streets, in the subway, or anywhere where she had unsupervised access to the public. If I didn't have the upper body strength to keep her arm's-distance away, I would very likely not be alive this morning. Best case scenario, I would have been found on the subway floor in a puddle of my own blood, possibly engulfed in flames.
Dramatic, yes, but the reality of the situation. She had the means and no qualms with destroying me. So, again, I ask, why was this woman in a public area?
I could begin to question the decency of those who witnessed my attacker, and the 100% of these people who did nothing more than give me a glance and look nervous. Full-grown men who were twice her size and could have restrained her or even did so little as sat closer to me to keep an eye on the situation... did nothing at all. Some didn't so much as stir, so as to avoid any contact or involvement. Not even the subway worker in the booth, with a telephone and a glass safety net around him stood up when he saw this crazed woman following me, as I held her at a distance. But... what good is that discussion? This is the world we have found ourselves in, and really? There is no reason anyone else should have to put themselves at risk for the lives of a stranger because an individual who should not even be in public is not being properly watched.
Calling the police would have been worthless. Not only would it anger her more, I know for a fact that they wouldn't be on the scene for at least half an hour or so. By which point, I could have been so much worse off.
Instead, I avoided eye contact, didn't say a word, and simply blocked my head with one arm while creating a barrier with the other. My two arms were the only things keeping me alive. All I did then was run as she followed me to my apartment lobby. Again, just because of the fortune of my situation, the lobby door locked behind me and kept her out.
I don't have research to prove anything or laws and numbers at which to point and discuss. I have my own experience, my own utter terror and sleepless night and trauma-inducing tale to share, and that is my argument. These say everything that should need to be said.
One night in a prison cell would not reform this woman. She is not a heartless sociopath and she is not a criminal by choice. Treating her as such and then throwing her back on the streets does not protect her or me. One day, she will harass the wrong person, and someone will end up dead. Will anything change then? I honestly don't imagine so. One more life will be sacrificed to the gods of political denial and ignorance. I am sure there are hundreds if not thousands of people who have experienced what I did last night. That doesn't mean I won't share this story, though. The options are to fix or to fall.