Pennsylvania and North Dakota are both experiencing energy booms powered by hydraulic fracturing technology.
And while drillers are extracting oil, not natural gas, in North Dakota, small communities in both states are both dealing with the same challenges. Among them: how to handle the influx of rig workers – many of them young men with a lot of money and free time – temporarily moving into town.
This has complicated life for women in the region as well.
Many said they felt unsafe. Several said they could not even shop at the local Walmart without men following them through the store. Girls’ night out usually becomes an exercise in fending off obnoxious, overzealous suitors who often flaunt their newfound wealth.
“So many people look at you like you’re a piece of meat,” said Megan Dye, 28, a nearly lifelong Williston resident. “It’s disgusting. It’s gross.”
Prosecutors and the police note an increase in crimes against women, including domestic and sexual assaults. “There are people arriving in North Dakota every day from other places around the country who do not respect the people or laws of North Dakota,” said Ariston E. Johnson, the deputy state’s attorney in neighboring McKenzie County, in an e-mail.