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Canyon

This blog post has been floating around my mind for a few years and with all the sexual assault reported in the news lately, I decided it was time.

Why is sexual assault such a big deal?

I was walking in downtown Denver by myself at eleven o’clock at night. It was freezing out and under the arm of my knee-length pea coat I held a book. In my pocket, I clenched a can a pepper spray, just in case. I walked three blocks to the free 16th Street Mall bus and then another three blocks to where my car was parked. When I got in and locked the door, I let out a sigh of relief.

My husband had bought me a ticket to the concert of my favorite singer/songwriter for Christmas last year. I was over the moon to go. Prior to the concert, there had was considerable discussion on where I should park and how I should get back to my car because I was going alone. I could park at my husband’s office for free and walk or take an Uber, or park at the venue for $20.

I was mad that this was something I had to worry about so much! My husband never has to worry about if he would get assaulted walking back to his car. I didn’t want to spend $20 on an Uber or parking when I could just as easily walk. But then I kept thinking if something happened to me, the $20 would be nothing. If something happened to me, would people ask maliciously what a mom of two kids was doing out alone in downtown Denver late at night? If something happened to me, would people say it was my fault for not taking the necessary precautions? I decided I didn’t want to live in fear, and I parked and walked. The concert was amazing, everything I thought it would be. I sobbed through the first two songs because they were just so beautiful.

I walked back to my car, pepper spray in hand, every nerve alert for anything out of the ordinary, anyone following me, anyone’s gaze on me for longer than it should, any car driving slowly by.

This is what it is to be a woman.

I married my wonderful husband when I was very young. We had not been married long when I come up with the idea that we should wrestle. I thought it might be fun. I am not a small woman and my husband isn’t a big man, but he usually weighs about 20-40 pounds more than me, depending. I had seen all the movies where the 110-pound woman kicks 20 men’s butts, so I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I didn’t even stop to consider how strong my husband really was, compared to me. The men in my life had always treated me with the utmost respect, so I had never had to come up against a man physically, even if it was playful.

It didn’t take me long to realize it was not fun.

My husband pinned me without even trying. No matter how I struggled, he could always dominate me physically. (He never hurt me by the way, and this exercise didn’t last long, because….)

I got angry, very angry. Imagine my husbands surprise when his wife suggests they wrestle, only to have her turn into a furious banshee a few short minutes later.

That was the first time I realized how physically strong men really are.

Several years later I was now a writer and as an experiment I again asked my husband to wrestle. He did so with great trepidation, remembering the furious banshee from years previous. I assured him I was better prepared to handle defeat this time. If you can image, the exact same thing happened. My husband could pin me without even trying, no matter how I tried.

I was once at a self-defense class led by local law enforcement. The man leading the class was ginormous. He was a least a foot taller than me at I’m guessing 6 foot 6 and had to be at least 250 pounds and probably more. He had guards over his hands, and he was telling me to punch him, harder and harder. This experience was supposed to be empowering, but as I hit the bright read guards, all I could think of was how pathetic my effort was. If this man wanted to hurt me, there would be little I could do about it. Just the muscle in his body weighed more than I did.

So why is sexual assault such a big deal?

It’s because we have so little physical control. Yes, there are women out there that would be a match for most men, but most women aren’t one of them. I’m not one of them. I would love to be Wonder Woman, but I’m not. I would guess if it came down the average man and the average woman, the man would physically win every time.

Historically, even though women were not physically matched, perpetrators seldom received any consequences. Women have been brushed aside and discredited for so long that we can’t walk the mile back to our car alone without wondering if something horrible will happen to us, and worse, wondering if people will say it is our fault if it does. Our choices have been disregarded for too long.

We are sick of being brushed aside. Sick of being afraid. We are sick of being attacked because we have less muscle mass. Yes, we might not have the stronger muscles, but we are binding together and those who seek to dominate us will be surprised how strong we are.

We will not be ignored.

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