I have always considered myself a strong woman both mentally and physically. I keep my cool in emergencies and I am usually one of the first people to act. I’m 5’9”, I have a broad frame and I pack on muscle just by looking at a set of weights. I am larger and stronger than the average woman and because of years of stage combat and self-defense training I would fare much better than the average woman in a fight. Yet the UCSB attack and the emergence of the #YesAllWomen campaign has really made me think. I am very fortunate in the fact that I have never been in a verbally or physically abusive relationship with a man. I am also very fortunate that I have never been sexually abused or assaulted. Sadly, this puts me in a minority group. I have lost track of how many of my friends have been raped. When I really stop and think about it, the number is mind boggling. It breaks my heart that I have friends that have to differentiate between when they forcibly lost their virginity and when they chose to lose their virginity. I can’t even begin to imagine the horrors that exist in their past.
Then I realize, that to a certain degree I can, because like them, I live every day in fear. I have never had any of these atrocities acted upon my body, yet there is an ever present warning light in the back of my mind reminding me that my turn could be just around the corner. I am not a victim, yet. All of the strength and training that I possess may not be enough to stop the inevitable. That’s right, the inevitable. I think every young woman, if she’s honest with herself, expects to be harmed by a man at some point in her lifetime. And that’s not right. There are a lot of really great men in this world, but they aren’t the ones that we’re taught about. So we’re afraid. I am afraid . . .
Because admitting that I’ve never been raped will eventually be met with the quip, “Challenge accepted!” and no one will be there to shame the man that says it.
Because I was taught to scream ‘fire’ or ‘fight’ instead of ‘rape’ or ‘help’ because the former will draw attention and the latter will not.
Because I was trained to carry my purse so that I can swing it at an attacker in a moment’s notice.
Because I was taught that you never open the door to an unknown man after dark, because obviously he is there to rape and kill you.
Because I’ve said yes to sex, even when I didn’t want to, because I was afraid of what might happen if I said no even though the man had shown no signs of aggression. Better to have the semblance of a choice, then have the choice removed completely.
Because I was given a “rape whistle” at my college orientation, and I knew girls that needed it for that purpose.
Because in college my friends and my reaction to men sticking their hands up our skirts at a dance club was either to avoid clubs completely, or make sure that we always wore pants.
Because I automatically start going over my self-defense training whenever I’m alone at night and see a man.
Because I sleep with a dagger by my bed, and nobody questions why it’s there.
Because I live my life with this insidious fear I have the tiniest glimpse into what life must be like for the women who are less fortunate than me. That makes my heart ache and my very soul cry. We should not have to live like this. #YesAllWomen deserve equality, but more importantly we deserve to be safe.