Israel KeyesIf women went by statistics alone, we'd all feel safe walking the streets anywhere, anytime. Those statistics all show women are much more likely to be victimized by someone they know than a stranger. But then there are stories of women like barista Samantha Koenig, the Alaska woman kidnapped two months ago, that make it hard to find comfort in statistics.
Police say they found the 18-year-old barista's dead body in a lake this week, turning suspicions that she had been killed by the strange man who abducted her from the coffee stand where she worked into fact. The cops' chief suspect is a 34-year-old contractor named Israel Keyes, a man Koenig's family doesn't know, a man she doesn't seem to have known until that night. I imagine those "non-stranger" crime statistics are cold comfort for the Koenig family right now.
I know they're hardly comforting for me. I want to feel safe as a woman when I'm out and about, especially living in a rural community. But tragic stories like Koenig's, stories that even police admit are baffling because they are so random, are hard to shake.
I had her in mind just this past Sunday as I walked down a back road with my best friend only to spot a strange man walking a Corgi toward us. There was nothing specifically intimidating or threatening about him, but the first emotion that sprang up in me was fear. He was scary simply because he was a stranger. Here we were, two able-bodied, intelligent women, and there he was, an unknown quantity.
As it turned out, he was simply what he appeared, a man out walking his dog on the lovely back road where we had chosen to get a workout. When I got back in my car at the end of our walk that morning, I felt guilty for jumping so quickly into suspicious mode. But with the discovery of Koenig's body today, I'm feeling less guilty, more assured that my body is right to stiffen, to be wary of strangers, particularly strange men.
Statistics tell me not to. But statistics didn't save Samantha Koenig.
There's more on her story below. How does it make you think about going out around strangers?