On Feeling Safe


“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
–Margaret Atwood

I would have preferred less concrete terms in that quote, but there is some truth in it.

I’ve been punched in the face, bound and gagged, kicked, choked, pulled out of bed by my hair, and held down on the ground by men. I’ve been raped, stalked, and sexually harassed at work. I’ve been cat-called, propositioned, and groped by strangers. I’ve had men call me a “bitch” or a “dyke” when I rebuffed their unwanted advances.

A man tried to kill me. Because he was never caught and he is still out there, I own a gun and sleep with a baseball bat next to my bed.

I have decided what to wear for a night out based on how far I’d have to walk alone. I have walked blocks out of my way just so I wouldn’t have to go down a desolate alley. I have gotten off the train at a station to sit in another compartment just to avoid someone. I’ve felt my heart beat faster hearing footsteps in an empty parking structure. I’ve walked to my car foolishly holding my short, dull keys as a potential weapon:


I quit a job, because without any encouragement, the Vice President kept calling me with lewd suggestions. Even though I recorded the calls and played them for Human Resources, no action was taken. “Hey, sexy…”

I was called “hun” by a man in a business email just last week:

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 3.58.58 PMWhen I move to a new neighborhood, I figure out where the closest police station is in case I’m followed home. I have a contingency plan for being followed, because it has happened more than once.

It’s sometimes terrifying to be a woman. Even the most empathetic of men can’t truly understand what it’s like to be afraid of the opposite sex as we often are. Most men aren’t aware of the anxiety and relief women feel regularly when that man walking towards us keeps walking without saying anything or the light turns green and we can speed away from the guy next to us making gestures. Men don’t typically choose their mechanic based on how comfortable they feel alone there.

Driving late at night, getting a flat tire, walking alone, waiting for the bus or train, running into a group of men, particularly if they’ve been drinking–these are all potential minefields.

I’m certainly not saying that men are evil and women are innocent. Nor am I saying that the majority of men do the things I’ve described. For every hooligan, there are a thousand gentlemen, but it only takes one man to rape. I’m not generalizing; these are things that have happened to me.

My point in writing this is not to shame nor finger point, but to make you aware that there are times in almost every woman’s life when she fears for her safety. With more understanding that this does happen, maybe the less it will.