I Am Not Afraid

Note:  This is not going to be one of the normal FA posts.  I had one all written out, which will post on Wednesday.

This may be triggering, has to do with rape, so it’s behind the cut.

Two nights ago, after Conall arrived home from work at 12:15am (technically Sunday morning, but since we’d not been to bed yet, it was still Saturday night), the BiL saw about 5 police cars, lights flashing, on the street about a third of the way down the block.  He called Conall’s and my attention to it, and we all wondered what was going on.  After all, we live in a “good” neighborhood.

Last night, Conall heard some of the story on the news, and today, in a small article in the newspaper we found out the rest.

It seems a woman had had an argument with her boyfriend and took a walk to clear her head.  On the walk, she was abducted by a man who forced her into his SUV, and then drove her to an empty house on my block.  He forced her into the house.  She pretended to be violently sick and managed to get away at that point.  She got help, and by the time we saw the police cruisers, they were looking for the man who abducted her.  They did find him and arrested him early Sunday morning.

Like I said, I live in a good neighborhood, but last night, Conall came home from work, having heard that reported on the news, and was extremely afraid for me.  All of a sudden, he wanted me to take self-defense (not just Tai Chi), so that I can get away if somebody tries to drag me someplace.

We had an interesting argument that turned into a discussion last night.  A few of his “male privilege” ideas came tumbling out and I was able to — bluntly — tell him the truth of things.

One thing he asked was, “So in your world, if a man grabs you it means he going to rape you?”

Yes.  If a strange man grabs me and starts pulling me into a car/house/dark alley, yes, all it means is that he’s trying to rape me.  If he wants money, he’s either going to demand I give him all my money and/or valuables, or he’s going to do a snatch and grab of my purse.  If he does a snatch and grab and misses my purse, accidentally grabs my arm, he’s just going to try and pull me over so he can still get his objective of my purse, with whatever potential money it might have in it.  If he grabs me, and pulls me someplace, there is only one thing he’s going for.

Hearing me say that matter of factly opened up my dear husband’s eyes and mind.  In his world, nobody would try to grab him unless they were either crazy (Conall is 6’2″ tall and naturally muscular, people, even men, are usually afraid of him), they had a personal vendetta against him and wanted to beat him up (he has no enemies, so highly unlikely), or they think he’s worth a ransom (and then, even if he did get kidnapped, he’d not have to worry about being raped).  He’s never had to worry about that, nor about just being gratuitously beaten up for making his aggressor angry with him.

Me?  I’m 5’2″.  3/4 the men in the world are taller than me, with 1/2 the women being taller than me.  Forget, for a second, that I’m fat.  Just being short means I have a short stride.  In running, I don’t have any speed.  Then, when Conall and I moved to the mountains, I had a severe reaction to the altitude.  I STILL have the reaction to the altitude.  If I’m walking, I can walk for hours without any problems.  Once I start running though, I run out of breath in a minute or two.  All an aggressor would have to do if I got away is outrun me.  And, when he caught me again, he’d be angry, besides still wanting his original objective.

Conall was angry with me for what he thought was me being “okay” with being raped.  He didn’t understand my reasoning of, yes, do what you have to, but when it comes down to it, being raped and alive is better than being raped, beaten, and killed because you made the aggressor angry. 

I tried to make a joke of “at least, if I’m alive, I’ve got a kick ass therapist who can help me through the effects of this rape.”  He wasn’t amused.

He’s afraid for me now, because this situation happened so close to us.  He’s afraid for me because I take the dog out every night when he’s working second shift (poor puppy couldn’t wait from 7pm when it gets dark til midnight without going outside).  He’s afraid because he can’t be with me 24/7 to protect me.

The thing is, I’m not afraid.

Yes, this happened on our street, 1/3 a block down from where we live.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m still not afraid.

This type of thing happens so often, it only warranted a 4″ one column report in the local newspaper.  As a woman, I’ve known for a very long time that this kind of thing could happen.  As a woman, I’ve had this kind of thing happen to me (ie, sexual molestation/rape).  I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that people do this, and I can either hide in fear the rest of my life, or I can live my life under my terms.

The puppy has to go out every night.  I’m the only one available some nights to take her out.  I’m not going to clean up puppy messes inside just because somebody might try and force me into their car.  I have more fear of the coyotes, mountain lions, and bears in the area than I do the human predators.

And even so, I won’t let fear cripple me.

I hope one day that all women will be able to say, “I am not afraid,” no matter how often they’ve been violated.  I hope one day, we will be able to get all men, even the good men like my husband, to understand what a different world they live in and we live in. 

Mostly, I hope that one day, we can say, “I am not afraid” because there truly is nothing to be afraid of, rather than in defiance of what is out there lurking in the night.

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15 Responses

  1. This is a good post.

    You’ve given me a lot to think about.

  2. Beautiful post, thank you for sharing this. I have similar feelings, and I live in a neighborhood that is “good for the city.” Very dense, lots of people, so these things happen from time to time up here. And I refuse to be afraid to walk at night.

  3. I once saw an eye-opening poster at our local community college. It showed a male unbuttoning his fly (and ended just above the waist) above which said, “Three out of five men would rape if they could get away with it”.

    This has been my experience, and any man who denies it is someone who may have mistaken the playful “I would tap that” comment as only playful and not a real possibility.

    Pragmatism is good tool to have in the world we live in considering the above. Protect yourself and educate others.

  4. I take your approach, too. I’ve had to insist on NOT being driven home sometimes, because I genuinely preferred to walk for fresh air and the pleasure of it. I believe that practicing my alertness and street smarts by walking at night where I need to go, will help me more in the long run than hiding at home after dark or having people “walk me to my car,” etc.

    Yes, there’s always a risk, a small risk, of being raped or otherwise violently attacked by a stranger. But, frankly, unless it’s a _really_ dangerous place, I don’t willingly hand over my freedom. Because if I give up my freedom, I’m 100% likely of being impacted. The threat of rape oppresses women, too, not just actual rape.

    My motive is mostly selfish, but it’s a little bit civic-minded. Every person who’s out and about is “eyes on the street” — potential witnesses that can deter crime and make law-abiders feel safer and less lonely. As neighbors see each other out and about, it builds community — even nodding acquaintance is valuable.

    Finally, I can’t cite statistics that are current, but I know from doing some research years ago that rapists are much more commonly someone the woman knows than a stranger. Changing your habits to avoid stranger-rape only avoids a small percentage of the risk.

    That’s my personal choice. Although I’ve been sexually harrassed by strangers, I’ve never been raped, and that’s a form of [maybe temporary] privilege I hold. Having said all the above, I don’t criticize any woman who chooses to be more risk-averse than I do.

  5. I had that talk with my husband a while back. How all women – every single one of us – is naturally wary of men. Not afraid, but aware. Aware that nearly all men are stronger than we are (even for a tall woman, like me – they can open the pickle jars, I can’t always). Aware that some men are just psycho. Aware that rape happens. And for some of us, it’s not just awareness, it’s memory.

    And it doesn’t mean we live in fear. Just that we live aware. And sometimes, we cross the street to avoid a guy that seems creepy, even if he’s actually a really nice guy. But for us, it’s just a normal part of life.

  6. It’s nice for your husband that he has apparently never realised before that women get sexually assaulted — what a happy world to live in! — but you’re completely right to leave him to his reaction phase and go on living your life as you always have. It amazes me over and over that men genuinely live a life in which the reality of sexual assault on women is non-existent.

    Also, this “So in your world, if a man grabs you it means he going to rape you?” is really pissing me off. Like it’s some kind of overreactional mass delusion. In THIS WORLD — his world too — when a man grabs a woman and tries pull her somewhere, yes the odds are that he wants to rape and/or kill her, for the reasons you explained.

    Conall was angry with me for what he thought was me being “okay” with being raped.

    I hope your husband learns a lot from this, because — “okay” with being raped, because in a life or death situation he will (almost certainly) never have to deal with you might pick one option over another to try to stay alive? And he’s angry at you, not at the man who might attack you or the culture that makes rape okay? Wow. I can’t even understand that.

    • He was afraid for my safety. And, as happens with many people, his fear turned into anger. Since his worry was about me, his anger was about me.

      There is a big difference between knowing *something* can happen, and realizing it can happen to you or a loved one. Conall, being a man, will probably never have personal knowledge of what it’s like to be sexually aggressed upon. While rape of men does exist, it’s reported so rarely that our culture doesn’t even think about it.

      Even though he knows what my past was (a history of childhood physical and sexual abuse, sexually molested/raped twice as an adult, victem of domestic violence with my first husband), and has seen my struggles to recover from all of that, the idea that I could be hurt (again) was extremely remote to him.

      Yes, he knew it could happen. But it was a “and she could die in a plane crash when she flies out to see her grandmother” type of way. It’s possible, but not probable. He was more concerned about the coyotes, bears, and mountain lions when I take the dog out for her nightly walks as a real and present possibility.

      Having this happen on our street brought it home to him in a personal way. All of a sudden, the thought that I could be hurt was made real.

      I think the thing that really stunned him was my acceptance that this kind of thing could happen. At any time, and in any place. Yes, even our own “good” neighborhood. I think that’s where the “so in your world” language came from.

      For all that he’s been great in helping me recover from the crap that happened in the past (and he has), I think his mindset was “that was then, this is now”. As in, all the bad stuff happened when I was younger, and now that I’m older/stronger/whatever, nothing like that will ever happen to me again.

      When I said, basically, that every woman has to live with this idea all their lives, it really challenged his worldview.

      He’s adjusting.

  7. I liked your post. There is one item that I do heavily disagree with and it’s the idea that you don’t fight back b/c the rapist may kill you.

    <i?He didn’t understand my reasoning of, yes, do what you have to, but when it comes down to it, being raped and alive is better than being raped, beaten, and killed because you made the aggressor angry.

    Fuck that! FIGHT! FIGHT LIKE HELL! Fuck the niceties, this is someone who WANTS TO HURT YOU. Gauge the eyeballs, hit soft things with hard things (elbows to the face, knees to whatever) and keep fighting.

    When a criminal has grabbed you and is trying to drag you off somewhere, chances are they have already decided if they are going to kill you or not.

    Fighting for as long as you can also gives more time for help to arrive and help prevents more than one crime scene. Your assailant may very well decide to give up b/c you haven’t made it easy for them.

    Women are conditioned to “well, don’t fight b/c he will hurt you more”. Oh no. He’s already decided to hurt you.

    Women who fight back tend to also have better recovery from the emotional and psychological trauma.
    (after all, that concept was created by men, to help their women stay safe right?). If you think I’m blowing smoke, please do your own research on fighting back.

    • Women are conditioned to “well, don’t fight b/c he will hurt you more”. Oh no. He’s already decided to hurt you.

      I completely agree with what you say here. The aggressor has definately already decided to hurt the person he’s targeting.

      I just disagree with the outcome.

      Something I left out is that I’m a pacifist. I will not fight back if somebody tries to hurt me. Yes, I will do everything I can to get out of the situation, but I will not fight back.

      I usually don’t talk about this, because people tend to call me a coward or tell me I just don’t know what I would do in a certain situation. Thing is, I do know what I would do in situations, because I’ve been in them.

      When somebody is threatening somebody else, who happens to not be able to fight back for whatever reason, I step in front of them to take the blow (yes, this happened a few years ago). I’ve been sexually molested/raped by two different people as an adult (both people I knew), and while I “fought” the one, it was in a way that wasn’t going to hurt him. I didn’t fight the other.

      I still stand by my statement though, that you do what you have to do, but being raped is better than being dead. If “what you have to do” includes breaking his knee, gouging his eyes with your keys, or urinating all over yourself, and that gets you away safe, then that’s what you do.

      There is a LOT of work to be done recovering from abuse and rape, but you can’t even begin the work of recovery if you aren’t alive to find a good therapist.

  8. One time I was overseas, and walking down a lonely street by myself, and some guy grabbed me. I’m not actually sure what his objective was, because he sort of threw me down an embankment and ran away – maybe a car came by, I don’t know. Luckily, I was fine; just some bruises and sore muscles the next day.

    But I remember thinking, in that moment when he had his arms around me (and they were like steel), “Oh, this is when it’s going to happen to me.” And I realized that I’ve been expecting my whole life to be raped.

    • I’ve noticed that women as a whole are taught that it’s not ever a matter of “if” we’re going to be raped, but “when”.

      That’s a sad statement on our society.

      I’m very glad the guy chose to not hurt you more, for whatever reason he had.

  9. I tried to explain this to my boyfriend. Creepy men in cars keep following me around my neighborhood to hit on me. He’s all “I would be flattered.” Le sigh.

    I think I am going to get some of this mace: http://pepperface.com/store/products.html

    They did a demo at my office and I didn’t buy any, but, I think I will buy some now.

  10. Coincidentally, my partner and I were having a discussion about rape statistics yesterday (sparked by the disturbing story about the kidnapper/rapist from Antioch, CA), and so I still have it fresh in my mind that 77% of rapes are perpetrated by acquaintances. Which doesn’t change the very real horror of what the woman in your neighborhood went through, but I find that it helps me keep my own fear about being raped by a stranger at a reasonable level. I think you have the right attitude about being afraid–being afraid won’t prevent anyone from being raped.

    This recommendation may have changed in recent years, but I remember seeing a safety expert on a morning show talk about what to do if you are attacked, and she said that you actually should scream and make a fuss, and never willingly to let them take you to another location…because if they’re taking you to another location, they’re more likely to kill you. Whereas if you scream and struggle, they may decide it’s not worth it. It was counter-intuitive to what I would have thought, but that’s what they were saying. I guess if there’s no fear of being caught while attacking you where you are, then there’s no reason to take you somewhere else. They also recommended, if you can, to defecate or urinate because the “disgust factor” can be a deterrent. It sounds like this woman used a version of that by pretending to be sick.

  11. I wonder of part of this disconnect is a language barrier. If a boyfriend is saying “I would be flattered,” I’m sure he doesn’t understand, but also it might be his way of trying to make you feel better. I’ve read that often men will try to minimize a problem in order to make it seem more manageable, and it helps them feel better about their own problems to do it – but often women will hear that as minimizing our feelings of fear and vulnerability.

    It’s hard to talk about this stuff without seeming essentialist, and I don’t want to imply that all men or all women behave a certain way, but I think it’s true that there are some cultural differences between men and women based on how we are raised and how we socialized as kids. Obviously it’s not true for everyone, but it can help to defuse misunderstandings.

  12. I think, by and large, safety is an illusion. Women are not as fooled as men, but there it is—anyone, anytime is susceptible. A man, a big man, is more at risk to be flatly killed—shot or such to eliminate the risk to his attacker if they are that desperate. And yes, women are always at risk of rape. Even, sadly, in societies devoid of men. Men, lest we forget, are not the only rapists.

    Rape happens to the body, but it does affect the minds of the women. I think how much so, and how much fear or defiance…or even denial…a woman carries away is a combination of her past life and what she believes about herself and her place in her society. My own rape, on my 20th birthday, by my date, affected me for a couple years. He thought my protests were only to signify that I was a “good girl” and not “easy.” It was a shocking and enlightening experience! Then I sat down and worked out the dynamics of what happened and decided who owned my sexuality and my body…me or society? My signals have never been mistaken since!

    My body can be taken for although I am a fighter, I too am a small woman. My self-owned sense of sexual self, my mind and spirit, however, are untouchable. I made up my mind how I would respond to attack by the circumstances: does fighting endanger anyone else (children present, for example), or am I a free agent if I am willing to take both benefit AND consequences of fighting. At this stage in my life, yes, I’d go down fighting to the death….and would say that, “You better be into necrophilia, Bub, cause that is the ONLY way.” But each woman needs to have the tools to make her own choice. Blanket policies by talk show sound-bite just are not the solution.

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