Sunday, June 9, 2013

Can You Live Safely Without Fear?

“There are two kinds of fears: rational and irrational- or in simpler terms, fears that make sense and fears that don't.”
                                                       ― Lemony Snicket

Note:  There may be some triggers in this post.  If you have triggers, please don't read this.  If you don't know what a trigger IS, you're probably safe to read it!

I am not a fearful person.  I have a tendency to leave doors unlocked, windows opened and curtains...well, who needs 'em?  I am all too aware that the dangers we, as women, face are often not from strangers but from the men who are a part of our lives.

  • According to the U.S. Office on Violence Against Women, one in four women have experienced severe physical violence at the hands of someone they know.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 4.8 MILLION physical assaults and rapes occur against women annually.
  •  Women who were sexually victimized as adults are more likely to report a history of childhood sexual abuse, according to a research study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice.  
I could go on and on with statistics but, since I feel a little ill after doing some preliminary research, I'm just going to let it stand that women are more likely to be victimized by someone they know.

When I was in college, I went sunbathing on a hill just across the street from the campus.  It was a place where we sunbathed often but this time, I went alone and I went after just about everyone had left campus for the summer.  I relaxed in the early summer air and I minded my own business while reading a book.  At some point, a man came by.  He was friendly and smiley and he asked me directions to Cameron Village.  I pointed the way and explained how to get there on foot.  As I talked, he moved closer.  Thinking nothing of it, I continued my explanation until I realized he had actually pulled his penis out of his pants.  I stopped talking and he took over, telling me exactly what he intended to do.  I don't remember his exact words now, but I do remember my reaction.

Disgusting Man: And I'm gonna (vulgarity, vulgarity, expletive, expletive)....

Me (smiling and friendly with his personal business in my face):  No, thank you!

Disgusting Man: (Continuing his litany of vulgarity)

Me (still smiling but shaking my head, in a very friendly fashion):  No, thank you, really.  No thank you.

Disgusting Man: (Vulgarity, vulgarity)

Me (smiling broadly):  No, really.  No thank you.
I reached back for my shirt to find some cover for myself since I was (obviously) feeling increasingly uncomfortable.  The vulgar man grabbed it out of my hand and told me I wouldn't be needing it.  At that point, I crab-crawled backward as fast as I could, stumbled to my feet and ran as quickly as my bare feet could carry me across the street.  I was shaken and slightly nauseous but I did get away from him.  He was a coward and we were in a public place.  He didn't follow me but ran away in the other direction.

Other experiences have haunted me more than this one because they were at the hands of people I knew, but this is an example of how quickly and easily a woman is victimized.  I don't want to be afraid.  I don't want to feel like I have to walk in groups.  And I don't.  I go everywhere alone.  Sometimes I go at night.  Sometimes I go in the MIDDLE of the night.  I refuse to live in fear.  Most of my friends say I am not living fearlessly but stupidly.

I want to trust people.  I do.  A couple of incidents happened just this year, however, that lead me to believe that people simply (sadly) cannot be trusted.  I won't go into details of either incident but, suffice it to say that I felt violated by both.  My trust was misplaced and I was deeply saddened by one incident and frightened by the other.  Both have led me to believe that I need to make some changes in my behavior and the things I do to protect myself. 

What do you do to feel safer?

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  1. Matt says, you have to be a sheep dog. A sheep dog is keenly aware of his surroundings at all times so that he can guard the sheep (who are not paying attention). I'm always looking around me, aware of my surroundings, and thinking about escape routes. I'm not fearful when I go out alone, but I am on guard. And, listen to your gut! If you get an uneasy feeling about a person or a situation, leave right away. I had an incident once, didn't feel right, so I fled quickly (and had a panic attack as soon as I got away), but I'm so glad that I left. I don't know what might have happened. I'm so glad that you got away from the creep that day.

    1. I LIKE the sheep dog analogy!!! I shall be a sheep dog henceforth!