Tess on Safety

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Until I was 32 I never experienced any violence in my life. Well, that's not entirely true. During the abusive marriage, there were escalating little episodes of violence which I didn't recognize for some reason, until they became too violent to be ignored. But even in those circumstances I didn't know terror or feel that I might die. I wasn't left with bruises or broken bones or cuts.

I never saw any violence either, except on TV. My parents didn't have any knock-down fights. I hung out with a crowd of hoodlums but they were more into doing drugs and stealing cars than beating each other up.

I think I believed the world was just naturally a non-violent place and as long as I didn't do anything really stupid, like getting plastered and starting a bar fight, I'd never experience it.

Since the rape, I've given a lot of thought to violence and what I should do to protect myself from ever having to experience it again. I thought of the usual things: self-defense course, carry a weapon, etc. But all of these thoughts only made me more scared because I realized not one of these devices would have saved me in the instance when I was attacked. My purse was not within reach, so a weapon would not have helped. Besides, I could easily imagine having my own weapon taken and used against me, as unfamiliar as I am with using one. Self defense techniques might have helped but only if I had been sharp as a tack and stronger than I am now. I'm afraid, as freaked out as I was when it started happening, and as physically uncoordinated and weak as I am, a few karate chops would have only pissed him off more and made him kill me.

I have read a story about an old lady who subdued a rapist in her home by grabbing his goods and twisting tight, refusing to let go until she had dragged him out her front door and onto the porch. Where he promptly limped away, mewling in submission. I had many fantasies about having done that. But I know it would have been foolish to think I could have fought him off by grabbing his balls. One sharp smack across the side of my head and I would have been out like a light. And again, probably dead soon after.

The only thing I did do to try and protect myself was to scream. Ridiculous thing to do because there was no one to hear.

So I have come to the conclusion that the only way to protect myself is to practice in my head and never be caught unprepared again.

1) I now notice unsafe situations, when before I would have been oblivious. Being in a house or room alone with a man I can't trust means being vulnerable, and I have noticed that I never leave my purse out of reach. If I must be in an unsafe situation, I always have my cell phone in my hand.

2) I now recognize pre-violent behavior. Once I thought I had no reason to fear someone else's anger, but now when I see signs of a temper tantrum, I am immediately aware and looking for a way out. Pacing, clenching fists, shouting, slamming things around, stomping--all of these are signs I should have paid more attention to.

3) I notice my exit paths. And if there isn't more than one, I'm extremely uncomfortable. I always know where the nearest person is, whether it's someone in the next room, or the next house. I notice whether cars are parked in nearby driveways and which houses have lights on. I look around for telephones. I want to know where the nearest phone is. I never would have noticed these things before.

4) I tell someone where I'm going. It always seemed like a silly thing to do before. Not now.

Someday maybe I will have the self-confidence to become capable of defending myself by fighting back, but for now my safety focus is on escape, rescue or crisis avoidance.


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Tess's Room

A lovely tempest, not easily understood, but worth the effort. Sort of like dark bitter chocolate surrounding the sweetest cherry...

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