diGrazia: Olivia Ambrose could have been me

What happened to Olivia Ambrose could have happened to me.

Boston was up in arms last weekend with the disappearance of the 23-year-old whose only intention was to enjoy a Saturday night out with her twin sister and friends. She was found alive three days later, having been held, allegedly, against her will in the Charlestown apartment of 38-year-old Victor Pena.

Olivia’s disappearance happened after a night out at Hennessy’s, a bar where I hang out quite frequently. She was reportedly asked to leave by a bouncer after having one too many, which unfortunately has happened to myself, and every one of my friends, at least once. She was intoxicated and left alone in the city’s streets. As a fellow 23-year-old woman, I have been in those shoes.

Throughout the weekend, my friends and I kept each other up to date on Olivia’s disappearance. When pictures of new suspects came out, we shared them. When new information was shared, we called one another.

With every shared social media post with Olivia’s picture, my heart, and the hearts of all my friends, ached. She could have been any one of us.

Olivia is the reason we go to the bathroom together. Olivia is the reason we don’t leave our drinks unattended. Olivia is the reason we take Uber rides together. Olivia is the reason we do not let each other out of our sights.

When a guy buys me a drink, I make sure the only person who hands it to me is the bartender. When I’m ready to go home for the night, I make sure to inform my friends or my roommates and at least one of them will volunteer to go with me.

We don’t feel safe enough anymore. One of my friends is celebrating her birthday this weekend in the city and half of us don’t even want to go out because we are too afraid of being the next Olivia.

Is this really the world that we live in?

It’s not even just the fear of having one too many and being taken advantage of, there is the fear of someone putting something in our drinks. There are a handful of close friends in my life who have endured the trauma of that.

It scarred them for life. It’s as if we aren’t allowed to let our guard down, even just for a second.

Thankfully, Olivia was reunited with her family in good physical health, but there are young women who have gone missing and never came back home.

Ken Green, MBTA Police chief (and a former Lynn Classical student/athlete), said he is proud of the combined efforts of his department, the Boston Police Department, and the use of social media in finding Olivia alive. It very easily could have “gone the other way,” he said.

Green said people have to be very careful when going out for a night in the city, especially young women. Always go with at least one person and keep an eye on one other, he said.

“And if you find yourself in the transit system, we have public safety cameras at all angles all over the place that are monitored,” said Green. “We see everything.”

There are people out there with “not-so-nice” intentions looking to take advantage of young women, or anyone who is inebriated, he said. It is also important, he noted, to be careful with how much you drink because if you are walking around not knowing what is going on, you could find yourself in a similar position as Olivia.

“Women have it tough, there is a lot going on with people who just don’t respect females, but these things do happen,” said Green. “People are reported missing every day around the country, many not having the happy ending we had in Ms. Ambrose’s case.”

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