I Moved To New York City, Six Months Later I Had A Gun To My Neck
Like scores of young Australians before and after me, I headed overseas to chase my dreams. Then I was woken up.
Coming home after a raucous night of work drinks with my colleagues in New York City, I felt on top of the world.
I was 26 years old, it was six months after I'd moved from Sydney to pursue a music journalism career, and Harlem already felt like home.
My euphoria, however, was short-lived. I tipsily exited the cab outside my brownstone and was confronted by two men as I unlocked my front door.
One of them held a gun to my neck. He demanded I hand over my phone (which I was holding to my ear, mid-conversation with a co-worker) and purse.
I felt the cold steel on my skin, and experienced fear like never before. I considered myself street smart and very aware of my surroundings, yet nothing prepared me for that sense of terror.
While I somehow managed to talk my way out of being robbed that night (hours later at the local precinct, I was told another woman had been raped two streets away a day earlier) the incident stayed with me the entire 10 years I lived on that block.
The horrors of that night came flooding back today, as I learnt of another Australian woman - roughly the same age I was at the time of my experience -- was the victim of a sexual assault in Brooklyn.
The 27-year-old moved to NYC four months ago and was walking home when she was attacked by an unidentified man, with much of it caught on camera.
Video: abc7 Eyewitness News of Thursday's attack
Countless Australians move to global cities like New York and London, chasing personal and professional dreams while often being blinded by the bright lights.
Our diaspora is relatively young, highly-skilled and highly-educated, according to a 2013 study conducted by Australian government-funded body Advance.
We're increasingly mobile, moving between Australia and other countries as career and life chances appear.
While an almost even number of women and men aged 25 to 39 account for the majority of total permanent departures from Australia, there is an increasing rate for females.
In 2011, there were over 20,000 Australians living in New York City alone.
And while it's considered one of the "safest" big cities in America -- ranking way below smaller areas like Detroit, St. Louis and Baltimore -- its overall violent crime rates compared to Sydney and Melbourne are much higher.
This could be because of America's gun laws, which are based on the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment giving citizens the right to bear arms.
Although it has half the population of 22 high-income nations combined, the United States has 82 percent of ALL gun deaths. That's staggeringly and disproportionately high.
The U-S of A is also home to 90 per cent of all women and children killed by guns, according to a 2016 study.
Across the Atlantic Ocean in London, Australian expats were warned this summer of a "crime wave" involving a rise in robberies and physical assaults.
"Travellers need to take extreme care while in London," Australian travel safety expert Phil Sylvester said.
“These are the types of warnings we issue for some of the most dangerous destinations in the world, such as Rio in Brazil and Caracas in Venezuela."
Former PM Paul Keating once allegedly referred to Australia as "the arse end of the world", an isolated land whose citizens are known for their love of travel.
I can't help but wonder if life in our geographically remote and relatively safe and cocooned cities makes us Aussies more fearless when we're abroad, like I was that night in Harlem.
While I still did "all the right things" during my experience -- I caught a cab straight home, I was talking loudly on the phone with my co-worker to feel safer -- that still didn't make me immune to criminal opportunism.
I dodged a bullet that night, and hearing of this young woman's assault in Brooklyn brought everything back. We must keep chasing our dreams, but with clear sight.
Featured Images: Simone Amelia Jordan
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