For as long as I can remember I’ve know it’s incumbent upon me to be cautious. I remember being a little girl and it being drilled into me how to safely cross the road. The lesson was tattooed on my mind. Twenty-something years later and I always “Stop, look and listen” before I cross.

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As my body changed, so did the things I needed to do in order to be safe. The list of ways I could protect myself lengthened and the potentially dangerous scenarios I could find myself in widened. For my male friends, the inverse was true. They could become more open, fearless, reckless, with no thought given to long- term consequences. After all they would be OK, what’s the worst that could happen?

For women the answer to that question is frightening. As our parents, loved ones and the media constantly tell us — we’re in danger. This isn’t hyperbole. 1 in 3 American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

I remember nonchalantly placing my drink beside me at a club and a young man rushed over to me. I smiled, expecting him to strike up a conversation “Be careful!” he said, “you could get your drink spiked.” I wasn’t afraid that night, but for some reason he was. I gave him an incredulous look and politely thanked him.

Shortly afterward, I heard news of a woman who had been raped in a similar environment, but didn’t press charges because she feared no one would believe her. I haven’t left my drink alone since.

I now have a list of things to avoid. It reads a bit like this:

Try not to walk down poorly lit roads after midnight if you’re in heels.
Never travel home alone if you’re drunk.
Avoid strange people.
Avoid getting obscenely drunk in public places. If you’re unable to do this and succumb to the joys of Jack Daniels Honey, ensure you’re with a close friend who’ll stick by you all night and escort you home.
Always lock the doors when you get in a car (unless you’re in a cab).
Carry a rape alarm.
If you can’t find your rape alarm, take that curved needle you use to tighten your weave. Just in case.

Recently, I was followed. It was frightening.

It didn’t help that I was lost and trying to navigate a sketchy part of Brooklyn at 2 am. At one point I contemplated taking off my heels and running barefoot. Then I realised I wouldn’t know where to run. Fortunately, two men noticed I was being followed and came over to walk with me. One reprimanded me for not knowing better. Shook up, I nodded in agreement. I should know better. I later remembered I’d broken the first rule on my list.

Like many woman, I’ve bought into the fallacy that by adhering to a list of rules, I can potentially inoculate myself against being violated or at least diminish the chances.

Except statistics say the opposite. They indicate it’s likely a woman will know her attacker. Approximately two out of three rapes were committed by someone familiar to the victim. Avoiding strange people doesn’t help. Over 50% of all rape/sexual assaults reportedly occurred within one mile of the victim’s home or at their home. Avoiding strange places doesn’t help either; because it’s likely you’ll be attacked in a familiar environment.

I spoke to my girlfriends and they’d all been given some variant of the “Here are things you can do to avoid being assaulted” talk. I did a poll of the men in my life. Some of them had been given the “no means no” talk, however not enough of them had been taught about sexual violence against women and its implications. It’s apparent that while girls around the world are being told to avoid violence, not enough boys are being taught not to incite and inflict it.

XOJane

This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more
Christiana Mbakwe on XOJane!

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  • Perspective

    If you sat around a listened to feminist you’d swear that EVERY MAN is a rapist, potential rapist, or secretly wants to be a rapist.

    As American Black man, Where do I get off this “AMERICAN” train?

    F it! I’ll jump

    • lol

      good riddens!

    • Aria

      That is not the point. Not every man is a rapist, regardless of race. You need to understand that what everyone is trying to say is that in this day and age (regardless of where it is) we spend time teaching precautions when we should spend equal time on “don’t rape”. You don’t always see the signs of a rapist, similar to how you don’t see signs of a killer. Rapists don’t wear neon signs screaming RAPIST HERE. Teaching a mass amount of men about boundaries and rape does not mean that they are all being targeted as rapists. Like I said before it is better to educate the masses than to wait for a crime to happen. Hit the discussion/source early. Act now not react later.

      Is it because women are talking about educating men on boundaries that automatically makes us men-haters? Feminists don’t hate men (well I am not a feminist so I can’t speak for them anyway), but what I do know is that feminists exist for the voice of women. Even though there are statistically more women in the world than men, men still hold some sort of power over women (i.e. discussions about abortion, contraception, appearance, etc.).

    • Tasha

      So, you gotta be a “feminist” to be concerned about rape and sexual assault?

      #NoKindaSense

  • Tasha

    Not to diminish the point of the post, but many of her rules appear to be good advice, period. Both women AND women should all practice not being someone’s prey.

    No, I am not trying to be dismissive. (I was molested and raped worked as a women’s rape advocate.) And while rape is tragic, I find society’s response to survivors and the CRIME of rape more heart breaking. I think if we can change that, then the messages we teach boys and men will have more volume.

  • ImJustSaying

    To all the men saying “i’m not a rapist so don’t tell me how to not rape someone” how about this conversation.

    When a woman at a bar is showing signs of distress come to her aid. Show that you support her right to a night out without intrusion from an ego driven jerk.

    We know you’re not a rapist, so be an ALLY

    When your friends talk about how drunk that hot chick is and how they’ve been wanting a chance with her. Remind them that she is not in a state of true consent. That if they want a chance with her they can wait til she’s sober to ask.

    We know you’re not a rapist, so be an ALLY

    When you see a woman walking down the street by herself check her surroundings for her. If you see someone/thing out of place do your best to address the situation as an ally for the woman. She doesn’t even have to know you approached the creep following her but it could save her life.

    We know you’re not a rapist, so be an ALLY

    Spread the word that a woman’s’ outfit does not automatically tell her sexual preference or standards. Dispel that rumor among friends that think a short skirt/tight dress/low cut shirt is an automatic invite for sexual comments/advances/touching.

    We know you’re not a rapist, so be an ALLY

    When you see something say something to an authority. No one is saying get into fights with jerks at every event but there are usually people with the authority to have a problem person removed. A simple “excuse me bouncer/officer/event coordinator but that woman is being harassed by that man. I think he should be escorted out before he causes a scene.”

    We know you’re not a rapist, so be an ALLY

    Think about every item on a woman’s “how not to get raped” list and do what you can to strengthen those items. Maybe with the combined energy from men and women rape stats could see a downturn.

    And because you are a good guy it should go without saying that this is done simply because it’s the right thing to do and not for personal gain. If that happens great but if she never knows or simply says thank you that should be enough.

    • Guest User

      Yawn.

  • I think one thing every woman should do is empower oneself by taking self defense classes (it can also be any martial art classes like Akido, Kung Fu, Tae Kwon do …or boxing).

    What it does is:

    -Build up our confidence,

    -Take out our anger in the right place,

    -Sharp our instinct,

    -and keep us in shape.

    Taking these classes made me realize how strong us Black women really are.

  • GeekMommaRants

    Hell, I’m old school. A pistol is the best protection. Today is different than the past. Today’s male maturity (?) involves porn. Many young men have been socialized to see porn stars as regular women and not actresses (?) So, the issue is different. This is why I carry a pistol.