Running, Safety, and Woman Things

As a woman I have to deal with the shit that comes with living in a society that caters to men’s needs. I’ve experienced that some men feel entitled to be able to scream, honk, or spit on me while I run by all because they are a man and I am just a woman. My running is obviously for their pleasure, not for my health. Their sexual thoughts are clearly more important than my safety. A few days ago I was involved in a very dangerous, very scary situation close to my home. I decided to write about it because it shocked me so much–I [naively] thought I had “aged out” of certain threats and violence.

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I was standing at my bus stop which is on a busy road. A car drives by and yells/honks at me (I refuse to use the word catcalling because I am not a fucking animal and neither are they).  They pass and I send a quick snarky text to Brian (who was working from home) complaining about how gross men can be sometimes. The next thing I know there is car driving up behind me and I hear someone open and close a door. At this point my entire body is in fight or flight. I immediately know this is not a safe situation. I don’t turn around until I hear someone saying something to me.

I turn and see one man walking up to me while another is sitting in the running car. The man is saying things about how I look but is doing so in a way I can’t fully understand him–I get the gist of what he’s doing but refuse to accept what’s happening. I respond by telling him I cannot understand what’s he’s saying, he needs to stop mumbling. Now he stands up a bit taller and repeats the comments and then proceeds to see if I need a ride. I should get in the car. It looks like I need a ride.

I respond by saying “No. I’m fine.” He then dives back into the comments about my appearance and repeats the entire thing over again, telling me I should get in the car. At this point I’m terrified. He’s getting closer to me, I can tell he’s not fully sober, and he’s not just leaving. I look him directly in the eyes and say “I’m waiting for my bus and don’t need this right now. Can you please just leave me alone.” I really wanted to say “Go fuck off and you and your friend drive straight to any church, walk inside, and ask Jesus to forgive you for being disgusting.” But I knew the more I reacted the more danger I would be putting myself in. So I kept it to please leave me alone.

Right when I am saying this, another car drives up next to me. The man sees this and responds to my comment with “It’s all out of love” to which I say ” I appreciate that but please just leave me alone”. He starts walking back to the running car. I look over to the new car and see one of my friends from grad school who saw this happening as she was driving on the other side of the busy road and u-turned around to see if I needed help. I literally have never been so thankful to see someone ever. I’m not sure what could have happened if she didn’t pull up. I called Brian while I was still with my friend and he came outside and called the police.

After reflecting on this entire thing it was really clear that I was not being annoyingly hit on. They obviously had intentions of taking me. What would happen after that, I’m not really sure, but the entire interaction had a stench of trafficking. I’m convinced that two things I did were helping me before my friend showed up.

  1. I looked him in the eye. Research says that when abductors are choosing their victim, women who look them directly in the eye become less desirable.
  2. I responded firmly and told him to leave me alone. I was not wishy washy. Even this small thing shows that you are not going to be an easy target. Especially when this is happening in broad daylight, on a Monday, on a busy road.

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I have been yelled at, honked at, screamed at, and spit on all while running. This is done either by passing cars or passing men on foot. I have never been directly approached like this. I always know there is a threat but I never truly feel it. I run in safe spaces. This incident reminded me that while I can feel totally safe because I perceive a place to be safe, I cannot read people’s minds. And some people’s minds are sick. I would never imagine someone would try to abduct me because that’s totally insane to me. But it happens every day and that’s why I’m writing this. As women we need to remain aware of our surroundings always.

Someone made a comment to me along the lines of “why does this happen to you so much?”. I thought about this a lot and came to a conclusion. I spend a lot of time outside, by myself. I run outside, hike outside, walk to school/work, stand at bus stops. I like being active outside so I spend more hours outdoors. I am not going to change my entire life for fear of another incident. I will not retreat to a treadmill inside because I’m scared of what might happen outside. This neighborhood/state/country is as much mine as it is the shitty men who approached me. I’m not going to cater to their perverseness and give up the things I love.

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So let this be a reminder to be aware and don’t think “that won’t happen to me” because I never thought this would happen to me and it did. Practice love and safety!

 

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