Last year I saw a video of a woman getting attacked in a residential neighbourhood. She was screaming at the top of her lungs and nobody came to help her and that really pissed me off. [The attack came amid a string of sexual assaults, including one incident of rape, in a number of Brooklyn neighbourhoods last fall]. Then I came up with the idea how nice would it be if every woman had an escort home. At first it wasn’t easy. A lot of people didn’t trust us. And then New York Daily News did a news story on us
and things just started rolling after that.
I go to a lot of community board meetings and there was this one time a sweet little lady asked me ‘How can we trust you guys? How do we know you’re not in cahoots with the bad guys?’ I got a little offended, but I instead I asked, ‘How many bad guys go to community board meetings? How many bad guys go to the police station to make sure they know who they are?’
I also made a Facebook page
where people can go and see all the faces of my volunteers. On top of that, there’s only one phone number you can call, and that phone is always on me. I’m the only person that answers it and it is always turned on. If I can’t pick a client up when she calls, I let her know the name of the person who will, that way she can go to the Facebook page and see what he looks like. We’ve also got yellow jackets that we wear, and when a client comes out of the subway, the person picking her up is going to know her name.
Photo posted on Facebook by Jay Ruiz.
“I tell all my guys to protect their client like you would protect your mother”
All my guys are gentlemen. In order to become a volunteer, you have to do a really strict background check at the police station, because first off, I got to trust you. I also do a thorough interview. I could have 30 volunteers right now but I’m so strict and paranoid, I only have 15, including myself. But none of my guys are ever going to say something like, ‘Hey sweetie, how you doing?’
They know that when they walk someone home, there are things that are ok to talk about, like asking someone how their day went. While walking, we always keep the bike between us and the other person. As soon as we get to the client’s destination, we always roll our bikes out into the middle of the street and say goodnight, that way no one feels uncomfortable or insecure when they get to their door. I tell all my guys to protect their client like you would protect your mother. So far, we’ve never had a problem getting someone home. We started with four neighbourhoods and now we’re covering 16. We also started with only 11 subway stops and now we’re up to 48. There have only been two attacks in the area since we began.
Most of our clients are women, but we’ve had some men call in the past because they didn’t feel safe walking down the street alone. We’ve escorted clients who are doctors, professors, college students, waitresses, people getting out of work late – it’s a big variety. The idea is, if you feel a little funny or can’t afford a cab at night, then give us a call. We’re always on duty.