First of all, I want to apologize for my extreme lack of postage lately. Life has been the capital of Busy-town, and my blogging has fallen by the wayside as a result. I will for surely update you all on what’s been going on (the good, the great and the best) soon, but today I wanted to talk about something a little bit more on the serious side.
I experienced something a few days ago, something that had never happened to me before, something that is still sitting pretty heavy on my heart, my mind and everything in between. Wednesday night as I walking to my car after work, I was assaulted by an older gentleman. I still cringe slightly when I hear the word assault because in my mind, what actually happened doesn’t warrant that extreme of a title. There are many, many people out there who have gone through far worse, and I honestly am just grateful that wasn’t the case for me.
The details of my story aren’t really what’s important–I was stopped by an older gentleman on a bike who claimed he was someone else, someone whom most people in and around my place of work know of and trust. The man made crude and sexual remarks towards me, grabbed my arm and tried to pull me towards him, preventing me from continuing to my car. I was able to get away without being physically harmed, only a bit shaken and a hell of a lot confused.
I remember getting into my car just moments after it had happened, trying to process the events that occurred mere minutes before. I know that I felt uncomfortable and more than a little creeped out, but I didn’t feel like it was a big deal. I didn’t get hurt. I’ve had strange people say strange things to me before and didn’t think anything of it. There was no reason to harbor on it or mention it to anyone, right?
Oh so very wrong.
It’s funny how your brain tries to protect itself when it feels threatened. It starts to rationalize the what’s, the why’s and the how’s. It creates scenarios, some of which may not even have happened, in order to calm the worries and fears. It wasn’t until I went into work the next day, when I saw the man again as I was walking into my office building, and saw the way he looked at me that I began to get this funny feeling in the pit of my stomach. My instincts–which are usually always spot on—well, they finally got their act together and helped persuade me to tell someone what had happened the night before. At this point, I still thought it wasn’t that big of a deal, and I hadn’t the slightest of clue as to the events that would unfold next.
I walked down to our safety department where I gave a statement and filed an official police report. It was a bit like watching a movie from above; I’ve seen this happen on Law & Order too many times to count, I’ve read about and listened to reports via the news about incidents just like this happening all of the time. Happening all of the time, just not to me. I have never felt like I had a reason to be afraid. Not in the slightest bit. Maybe that was just me being naive, but the fact that I was never fearful of doing something as simple as walking outside by myself at 5 o’clock in the afternoon gave me a sort of solace.
Over the course of the rest of the day, more and more people slowly started coming forward, expressing their own encounters with this man, how he had made them uncomfortable, scared, nervous. They gave personal accounts of witnessing him become enraged with anger, yelling and screaming and potentially putting the lives of the people around him, and himself, in danger.
My “not that big of a deal” had turned into quite the deal.
The truth is, the truth that I didn’t allow myself to believe, was that it was a big deal all along.
Every 107 seconds, an American is assaulted, including that of sexual and physical variety. Should it be that way? Absolutely not! Is there any one thing or person or reason to blame? Again, that’s a hard no. One of the things that was really brought to the forefront of my mind during all of this was that terrible things like this can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. It was just an ordinary late-afternoon on a Wednesday. I was in what I had thought was a very safe place (a place I still is very safe). And things like this just don’t happen to me.
It’s incredibley sad.
But that’s just the world we live in right now.
Do I have hope that this will all change? Of course I do. I have to have that hope. I think we all do.
But I also have to be realistic. And until things start to change, we all have to be aware of the potential risks. I’m not talking about living in a continuous state of fear, not at all. In fact, I refuse to live my life on fear’s terms. What I am saying is to acknowledge that danger is an equal opportunist. Be smart. Know your surroundings, who you are with and always, always report anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, uneasy or unsure.
If I hadn’t spoken up and told someone, the ending of this story could have ended in a whole other way. Perhaps the dozens of other people were also brave enough to stand up and share their stories following me wouldn’t have. Perhaps this man would have continued to hurt others. And perhaps this man wouldn’t have gotten the help he so deeply needs.
Sometimes all it takes is one person. One person start a conversation, to build an awareness, to stand up and be the voice that so desperately needs to be heard.
You should never be ashamed, or scared, or worry that you will become a burden to others.
Each and every story matters.
I am happy to report that the man in question was arrested last night. My hope is that he does get the help he needs, and will not be able to hurt anyone ever again.
If you are a victim of assault, I encourage you to talk about it with someone. Find somebody. If it is recent/ongoing, call the police. If it is something in your past, then find a counselor or call a hotline like the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1.800.656.HOPE.
You don’t have to go through this alone. You shouldn’t go through this alone.