Warning: if you are expecting the funny, you are going to be disappointed. I am not a good enough writer to address the issue of sexual violence with any sort of levity. Be prepared instead for lots and lots of righteous anger.
Reading articles like this and blog posts like this make me angry. Not at the writers--I appreciate their sentiments, concern, and willingness to take some flak to start a conversation that needs to be conversated. What makes me angry is that I follow the Rules to Not Get Raped. I dress pretty darn conservatively, and only "cheat" occasionally when I go out with multiple trusted friends. I've taken self-defense courses. I carry pepper spray, and even sometimes carry my keys between my fingers. I live in and visit only "nice" neighborhoods. I only stop at well-let gas stations when I'm driving at night, never at rest stops. When opening the door for strangers, I keep the chain lock engaged until I know what I'm dealing with.
I'm lucky. I haven't been assaulted.
And that has nothing to do with my having followed the "rules."
I was following the rules when a guy I was seeing in college threatened me. I am angry that I still wonder sometimes what I did to allow that. I was flirting--did I encourage him? I wore a push-up bra--did I encourage him? I kissed him--did I encourage him?
Then I remember that I spent the next three days cowering in my room because my roommate was out of town, and with the guy living in the same building, I was afraid even to leave to go to the bathroom. I had asked him to leave when I started feeling uncomfortable. When that didn't work, I firmly told him to leave. Then I demanded. I'd made it more than clear that I did not want to be treated that way.
I am angry that when my boyfriend is going out alone at night, I say "Be safe," and mean "Make good decisions." And when I tell a girlfriend who is going out alone at night, I say "Be safe," but it's a prayer instead of a directive.
I'm angry that I have, on occasion, chosen to stay home rather then go out alone at night.
I'm angry that I have to wonder if wearing a ponytail is tantamount to "asking" for it to be grabbed, and I'm angry that having very short hair made me a target for disparaging and sometimes frightening comments about my supposed sexual preference.
I'm angry that I am expected to always be aware of my surroundings and the people in them. I'm angry that I feel I have to.
I'm angry at how often I've been made to feel dirty or guilty because of how other people have looked at me, talked to me, touched me.
I'm angry that this is my reality, and I'm one of the "lucky" ones. I've never been assaulted.
I'm horrified that for other women, the reality is so much worse.
My friends: Please, this holiday season, be safe.