Friday, June 6, 2014

Walking alone at night

When I was growing up, I was an only girl and all the time the boys in my family were allowed to walk at night alone and do things and go places I was not allowed. I was taught to fear the unknown and fear being raped and attacked and that somehow if I stayed in or was never alone this would not happen. Nevertheless, when I was a teen, I snuck out of the house at late hours and walked at night, by myself in the middle of the street, fearing the bogeyman on every block. I did it anyway. I was hyper aware of myself and everything around me. I wish I could tell you that bad things never happened to me. They did. A couple of times. But not because I was walking alone at night. But because bad things happen. In my own home, I was beaten up by my father, so being home did not protect me, either. Once when I was seventeen and walking at night. Once I was with my boyfriend at night in the garage behind my house and a stranger came in and held a gun to my head. Once I was in the parking lot at Taco Bell at 9 PM and I was mugged and punched in the face. That was the time I fought back and refused to give up my car keys. Another time some creepy dude was yelling obscenities at me and following my boyfriend and me through Paris and I chased him away. Yep, I used to cower but now I just have decided to be a bad ass bitch about it. So, since bad things have happened, you would think I would "know better" than to walk through parks at night and to go to dangerous places in Central London and Times Square or Toronto and walk around at 3 am. But I refuse to let the bastards who hurt me or fear of the unknown keep me inside when I feel like taking a walk or being out. And of all the times I have been alone at night in places, very rarely have I been attacked. I lived in London for three months and I walked home alone every night through alleys and side streets and along main roads. And all those times, I survived just fine. I am aware of two things. First, that anything can happen to me at any time. My dear friend was kidnapped and raped while she was walking her dog in a lovely "safe" neighborhood at 9 am. A perfectly acceptable time for a woman to be outside. Second, I refuse to let fear rule my life. Men do not live in the same way that women do- they have not grown up with the fear of rape being pounded into their heads to the point that they believed somehow that their actions will prevent that bad from happening. They are not street harassed and physically and sexually intimidated the same way we are. And I live my life aware, I listen wholly to my instincts. If something tells me to get the heck out of there, I do. I don't bother with pretense if someone is walking to close to me and I don't care if it seems like I might be hurting their feelings if I cross the street. But I will not allow all this to make me afraid to be out at night. Ever. Not everyone can live this way and I don't expect them to do so. I'm not advocating this for anyone else> I refuse to be kept inside. I refuse to modify my life to accommodate some terror that people want me to believe and honestly, if something bad happens, I'm not going to hold myself responsible. Fortunately, I have survived some pretty awful stuff. I refuse to let this stuff make me miss out on living my life in the manner in which I want. I refuse to apologize for being unafraid to go places I am not supposed to go. This is still my life, I still get to own it.

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