When I started to read the #YesAllWomen tweets last weekend, in the wake of the UCSB shootings, I will honestly say that I knew not very much at all about the horrors that had taken place on that campus or what drove another young man to destroy so many lives that were not his to take.
As I read more articles and watched more CNN, as we all did, I was horrified to hear his misogynistic rant and his “reasons” for unleashing a hellstorm.
And then I sat back and thought to myself, what else is new, really? These are not New Things or even Different Things. These are the leering men, the crass jokes about our bodies and our gender, the cat calls and the honks that we silence daily. The things that we are forced by our mothers to ignore at an early age because Those Are Bad Men, and as we grow-up, we end up ignoring because It Never Ever Stops.
Hundreds of school girls are kidnapped in Nigeria, daughters are sacrificed by their families in honor killings and still more wives are attacked by their husbands with acid in the world over.
And yet, this is all just noise, because it is only a matter of time before a new and different atrocity replaces the school girls and the honor killings with something else equally as dark and terrible.
So I write about this today, about me, and about my sisters because this is our reality.
I remember in middle school, I was sitting through some self-defense seminar or other and one of our instructors was enthusing about the virtues of self-defense in parking garages/parking lots/really any time we found ourselves alone. The tactic we were taught was to take our set of keys, separate them, and place each key between our fingers with the ring in the palm of our hand. From there, by making a fist, we became able to fashion something reminiscent of a bear claw. We were to use this technique not only to keep our keys at the ready so that we could get into our cars and away from these abandoned spaces quickly, but also to turn upon our assailants, fight back, and through the virtues of our sly thinking, be able to provide the police with a DNA sample via these newfound metal talons of ours.
Gold stars ladies. Getting attacked is inevitable, but at least we’ll have their DNA. What a comfort that is.
Then there was the time when I was 21 (or maybe I was 22). Marcus and I went out to the bar with a bunch of friends. Even though It Doesn’t Matter If You Are Or If You Aren’t, I wasn’t drunk and I wasn’t dressed provocatively. Plus, I was with my boyfriend. We all know that often times the presence of a “boyfriend” or a “husband” provides us with a sort of shield. So imagine my surprise when one of his friends took it upon himself to full frontally grope me, in front of everyone. Both hands. My breasts. All eyes glued on me.
And the reasons offered up for this behavior? It’s funny. He’s just drunk.
No. No. No. I am now a sexual assault statistic.
But those are just the things I have personally experienced. There are also the things I haven’t experienced, but I now almost instinctively know.
For example, danger is everywhere when I run.
There are gorgeous trails in our community that I will not run alone on because (1) I know women have been sexually assaulted on them and (2) there are areas secluded enough where if I were to be attacked/taken, I know that no one would even begin to know where to look for me. (3) It is no secret that people attempt to and successfully kidnap women while they are running.
And if that does not make it real enough for you, Dru Sjodin is buried a mile away from our cabin.
The day that they found Dru Sjodin’s body was the day that my mother started teaching me the most sober lesson of all: if someone ever comes after you, in a parking lot, on the running trail, in the mall, you have to be ready to fight them right then and there and die in that parking lot because the alternative to dying in plain sight will be worse.
That is my truth.