Scanning some of my old writings, I came across this paragraph:
I was once trapped in an elevator for around an hour. Since then I'm slightly claustrophobic. I was mildly assaulted on the street in 1996 and have been distrustful of strange men ever since, but I try not to let it stop me from living life and generally being a nice person. I've had some other close calls over the last 9 years, but nothing that a single girl alone in the city shouldn't expect to happen to her. Nothing life-threatening. My therapists told me that since I was leading a normal life I was probably over it. But don't things like fear of crowds manifest as a type of self-protection? Maybe I'm not as "over" those experiences as I thought.
The line that really grabbed me was "I've had some other close calls over the last 9 years, but nothing that a single girl alone in the city shouldn't expect to happen to her."
I beg your pardon? A single female should not expect to be attacked, harassed, or victimized on the street, simply for being single or female. Ever. For any reason. What a load of shit. And I call myself a feminist. For that matter, guys shouldn't have to expect it either, no matter how pretty or small or well-dressed they are.
It just goes to show what being vicitimized can do to your psyche. I went through plenty-o-therapy regarding my experiences, and part of that therapy was centered around the fact that I have been victimized more often than most. Most women I know have had this happen to them once or twice, but I have been through 3 serious attacks and about 5 other highly threatening situations. There is something about me - my manner, or something in my face - that screams out THIS ONE, TRY THIS ONE to men who are looking for a target.
And yes, every time, it's always been men. I have never been attacked, grabbed, or spoken to in a violent way or an inappropriate sexual manner by a female. When women want to hurt me, they ignore me.
I still grapple with this. I still try to discern what specifically it is about me that attracts criminals. I'm 5 foot 4. My long hair is easy to grab, and very noticeable, but I do tie it up or tuck it in often. I don't dress very provocatively. Are my eyes too wide? My face too expressive? Do my hips swing when I walk? Do I appear physically weak?
Living on the svelte upper west side, I still get verbally harassed from time to time, but I respond differently now - I flip people off, I look them directly in the eye and say rude, dismissive things, or some other DIRECT thing. Instead of showing my belly, I show my fangs. Instead of a white flag or a "Please Don't Hurt Me" sign, I now carry a shield and spear. And I use them. So to speak. I have become, as some might say, citified.
But I still have to show my fangs an awful lot.
And it only happens when I am alone.
I still should not have to expect it. Nobody should.