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Williston North Dakota: A town desperate for women after oil boom

// Latest News

By Meghan Keneally

PUBLISHED: 20:37 EST, 16 January 2013 | UPDATED: 20:40 EST, 16 January 2013

There are so many single men in one rural North Dakota town that rather than celebrating the fact that the gender ratio is reversed, many women feel threatened for their safety.

Unlike the rest of the country, there are more unmarried men in Williston, North Dakota, than unmarried women because of a recent boom in oil.

Men seeking labor-intensive and high-paying jobs have flocked to the town in droves, but the same cannot be said of women.

Dancing by themselves: Single men are faced with little prospects of finding ladies in bars in Williston, North Dakota, as the boom in oil drilling has brought far more men than women to the rural town

Dancing by themselves: Single men are faced with little prospects of finding ladies in bars in Williston, North Dakota, as the boom in oil drilling has brought far more men than women to the rural town

Hot spot: The slate fields in Williston, North Dakota- just near the Montana border- have caused an economic boom in the area

Hot spot: The slate fields in Williston, North Dakota- just near the Montana border- have caused an economic boom in the area

The gender disparity has had serious repercussions as the few women who do live in the town feel threatened and unsafe even walking around the local Walmart alone for fear of being followed by lonely men.

'So many people look at you like you’re a piece of meat,' 28-year-old Megan Dye told The New York Times.

Bars are filled with men, some of whom are so desperate for female attention that the proposition any lone female patrons with degrading requests: The Times article mentions how a group of men asked a pair of young women to come back to their apartment, strip naked, and then serve them beer while they watched a fight on TV, all for $7,000.

The economy of the region used to be based around agriculture, but ever since geologists realized that it was sitting on top of the Bakkan formation- a series of shale rocks that are prime for oil drilling- companies have moved into town and appealed to fortune-hunting workers.

Little gender diversity: Workers generally live in company housing units and eat at on the grounds (pictured) as companies rush to meet the bare minimum of living requirements as the oil boom happens

Little gender diversity: Workers generally live in company housing units and eat at on the grounds (pictured) as companies rush to meet the bare minimum of living requirements as the oil boom happens

Meeting the need: Far more housing is required, but in the meantime many live in company-provided units like these (pictured). Rent in other areas of the town are similar to those in Manhattan simply because there are too few options available

Meeting the need: Far more housing is required, but in the meantime many live in company-provided units like these (pictured). Rent in other areas of the town are similar to those in Manhattan simply because there are too few options available

The rest of the area has not grown as rapidly, however, as housing remains a constant issue as rent skyrockets due lack of availability.

Many of the oil companies provide housing camps according to the Wall Street Journal, drawing comparisons to military barracks or an all-male sleepaway camp.

Even then, if they choose to live off base, locals are faced with rents that are far from North Dakota prices.

'If you look back several years ago, you probably could have found a two-bedroom apartment for $300 to $500 a month. We've seen huge increases over the years to anywhere from $2,000 to $2,500 a month for a single bedroom apartment here. So we're seeing Manhattan rates, if not above Manhattan rates,' local economic development adviser Shawn Wenko told NPR.

Safety concerns: Many women are fearful around so many men. Jogger Sherry Arnold (left) was allegedly killed by oil workers Michael Spell (center) and Lester Waters (right). Her body was found near a highway in Williston

Necessary services like daycare are another area where the speed of the city's growth has overlooked. As a result, many of the women who do come to the town are looking for other lifestyles.

Prostitutes and exotic dancers have found themselves lucrative careers in a town full of lonely men.

The financial gain does not erase the safety concerns, however, as the fear of the oil workers spreads across state lines.

Looking for romance: Matthew Tjaden (right) and Doug Preskey (left) are two of the many young men who have flooded the town looking for labor-intensive and high-paying jobs

Looking for romance: Matthew Tjaden (right) and Doug Preskey (left) are two of the many young men who have flooded the town looking for labor-intensive and high-paying jobs

The biggest example of the threat in the region came in January when Sherry Arnold, a math teacher in a town on near the border of Montana and North Dakota, disappeared during an early morning jog.

After a two month manhunt, the body of 43-year-old Arnold was found near a highway in Williston and two men who traveled from Colorado to North Dakota looking for work in the oil fields are now awaiting trial for her murder.

'We own the day, they own the night,' Sidney, Montana mayor Brett Smelser said of the oil workers.

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