Monday, May 21, 2012

take back the night

I am a survivor.

Gathering my books I glanced outside and cursed the blanket of night unfolding across the sky. Crap. I meant to leave the library hours ago. A shiver ran up my spine, but I shook it off, steadying myself.

I packed my sociology textbook and note cards into my bright red book bag and rubbed the nape of my neck, warding off fears. It was the same fear that I felt each time. The fear that came with night. People who say there are no such things as monsters or ghosts should count themselves lucky to have lived among them in blissful ignorance. Trust me. They are there. But they will not keep me from living.

I straightened, wrapped myself up in my resolve and set out into the night in search of my car which, after hours of studying on campus, would be an issue locating. I flipped open my cell and dialed my girlfriend while digging my keys out of my purse.

No answer. Footsteps sounded behind me and I paused, missing the voicemail beep.

“Oh..uh..hey, Mo. It’s me. I…uh, got caught up studying and lost track of time…and my car, evidently. Hit me back later, k?” I disconnected, but kept the phone in my hand and at the ready. Just in case. Glancing around, I noted another student a few yards back. Just looking for his car. Hope he has better luck than me. I steadied my breathing and looked around, standing at the edge of the lot.

The parking lot lights were fireflies in the night, sporadic and dim. One deep breath in, and I ventured out into the darkness. My breathing quickened with my steps, an involuntary reaction that evened out the nearer I got to each light. Pulse pounding, I paused. It was a lot to manage. Fear crept in with each car I passed, but no one jumped out from behind the cars; no hands snaked out from underneath one to grab at my ankles. Daylight was easier to handle.

I fumbled with my keys, ensuring I could unlock my car door at a moment’s notice. If I ever found it. I followed the path along the outer edge, hoping to find it in my normal area. I’d been in such a hurry this morning I didn’t pay much attention. Add that to the adrenaline coursing through my bloodstream and short of a magnetic pull or sudden premonition, I wasn’t hopeful to find it on the first try. I cursed and sped up, glancing around a bit more frantic. I’d be fine, I knew that. No one was lurking, waiting for me. I just needed the security of my car; the safety of being out of the danger zone.

* * *

Ironic to be so fearful of something as docile as night. Night has never done anything to me. But I, along with so many other women, have an increase in anxiety when out alone at night. It’s true, there are monsters and ghosts. Not the same as the monsters that grace the big screen. No these are human monsters. Just as the ghosts are not the dead in non-corporeal form. The ghosts that haunt the night, and sometimes day, are the ghosts of the past; the ghosts of the terror women have suffered at the hands of others.

The narrative above captures an intimate glance into my mind at 19, while leaving campus alone. While I have never been the victim of a random act of violence at night, enough women have been, that I carry the fear with me. That fear is compounded by my own experience with being a victim of sexual violence, and, while not random, still worms its way into my subconscious where I am forced to struggle against the fear.

I am not alone. Many women are assaulted not by a random perpetrator, but one close to them. 
Between 15 and 76 percent of women are targeted for physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the available country data. Most of this violence takes place within intimate relationships, with many women (ranging from 9 to 70 percent) reporting their husbands or partners as the perpetrator. from  

I am a survivor. I am standing up. I am speaking out.

Everyone deals with life in their own way. Needless to say, women dealing with rape follow their own path in terms of how they handle it. I have chosen to learn an aggressive, defensive martial art. I have taken back the night by turning my hands and feet into weapons, by training my mind to react to unwanted sexual attention. Saying “No” should be enough, but history proves it is not. I deal with my past by using it to fuel my present. I use it to ensure I’m never a complacent victim again.

I am a woman. I am a survivor.

Please take a moment to watch the video above. It is powerful, and its message is needed. Also, as always, feel free to leave a message. 


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