Women feel unsafe in a town overrun by men
Sex crimes and domestic assault have been steadily increasing in the small oil town of Williston.
In the midst of an oil boom, young men have been migrating to North Dakota in search of work. It's lucrative work, too—many of them rake in six-figure salaries.
Because of this boom, Williston, North Dakota has seen a notable increase in its population of single men. In fact, the single men now significantly outnumber the single women of Williston. But the scarcity of women has an unsavory side effect—the men are becoming aggressive.
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The New York Times profiled the town this week, quoting a 22-year-old worker named Jon Kenworthy, who moved to Williston in December:
"It's bad, dude. I was talking to my buddy here. I told him I was going to import from Indiana because there’s nothing here.”
As bad as it is for the men, it's worse for the women, who say they no longer feel safe enough to go out alone.
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"So many people look at you like you're a piece of meat," Williston resident Megan Dye told the Times. "It's disgusting. It's gross."
And it's not just their imaginations. Over the past six years, there's been an increase in crimes against women, "including domestic and sexual assaults." In those six years, North Dakota has become the state with the third-highest ratio of single men to single women in the country. In 2011, there were 1.6 single men for every single woman.
"I've noticed my standards dropping," one young man told the Times. "I just went home two weeks ago. I saw the girls I had planned to see. That, hopefully, should hold me off until I go back next time in two months or so.”
While this attitude may seem harmless, the commodification of women in Williston is clearly linked to the increase in domestic and sexual assaults. Jessica Brightbill is a 24-year-old Williston resident who was attacked by two men on her way to work—at 3:30 in the afternoon.
"One hopped out and grabbed her by her arms and began dragging her. She let her body go limp so she would be harder to drag," the Times reported.
After that incident, Brightbill never goes out alone. And even though she's single, she expresses the difficulty of finding a good man in her town:
"It's just people trying to have sex."
Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images/A row of new single wide mobile homes in Williston, North Dakota.
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