A groundbreaking study led by Brigham Young University public health professor Robbie Chaney sheds light on the stark contrast in experiences between women and men when walking home at night.
The research, conducted by Chaney and co-authors Alyssa Baer and Ida Tovar, highlights the unique safety considerations women face as they navigate dark environments, a phenomenon not typically observed in men’s experiences.
Using images of campus areas from four Utah universities, participants were asked to identify areas that caught their attention, with women showing a notable tendency to focus on potential safety hazards at the periphery of the images, while men primarily looked at focal points or their intended destination.
“The resulting heat maps represent perhaps what people are thinking or feeling or doing as they are moving through these spaces,” Chaney said. “Before we started the study, we expected to see some differences, but we didn’t expect to see them so contrasting. It’s really visually striking.”
Published in the journal Violence and Gender, the study involved nearly 600 participants, revealing significant gender disparities in visual patterns while walking, with women exhibiting a heightened awareness of environmental threats.
Chaney, Baer, and Tovar emphasize that these findings provide valuable insights into the lived experiences of women walking home, sparking important conversations and potential actions to address gender-based safety concerns.
The study underscores the importance of considering gender-specific experiences and perceptions in urban planning and community development to create safer environments for all individuals.