One Foot In Front Of The Other.

It was getting late. Almost 11:30 P.M. This picture had been taken at least a full hour ago:

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The friends I met up with were starting to get incoherent, and, although I never mind not drinking around people who are, I don’t love staying around people who are drunk and keep drinking anyway. Especially in bars. I had driven myself to New Brunswick, so I had to drive home. Since I had driven, I hadn’t had anything to drink. That’s my rule and I always stick to it. I would never want to risk hurting anyone.

“I think I’m going to get going, everyone,” I said.

“Yeah, it’s getting late, us too,” another member of the group seemingly gratefully jumped on board. She was the designated driver for two other women in the group. They parked outside the bar. I had parked a bit away, but had always felt safe walking around New Brunswick alone, even at night. I was a smart kid.

“Hey! Where are you going?” the DD asked.

“Oh, I’m in the deck by the hotel. I didn’t feel like dealing with circling the streets and this deck is free and always has spots,” I answered.

“Hop in, we’ll take you,” she replied.

“Are you sure? I’m really okay,” I promised.

“Yes. Besides it’s freezing. Come on,” she convinced me.

She dropped me in front of the hotel as our two other friends drunkenly laughed and sang. “Thank you so much! Drive safely!” I said as I grabbed my purse off of the floor.

“Will do!” she yelled, and they were gone. I started walking to the front of the hotel, the best way to get to the elevators to the parking deck. My keys were out, the longest between my knuckles, just in case.

I walked through the lobby to the elevators which connected the hotel to the parking garage. Unlike when I had parked earlier in the evening, a party of some kind was going on and/or wrapping up in the hotel’s main room.

I waited patiently for the elevator. Soon two other couples joined me, waiting. And then, two men who had clearly had too much to drink and were looking to instigate something. I could literally feel it in my gut as they approached. They started to get louder and louder, looking for an audience. As they looked at me, I regarded them with caution, afraid at this time of night they might take an acknowledgment as an invitation.

The elevator finally came, and the two men went in first. Then the couples.

I hesitated, thinking to myself, just wait for the next one, you’re already nervous. Then, they are clearly watching me, so if I don’t get in, it might actually be worse. They could get off and try to wait with me, and then I’d be alone. At least right now there were four other people who would surely keep them calm. I’m the last in so I’ll be the first out. It’s only three floors. I reluctantly stepped in the right side so I could select the floors myself.

I hit “3” which lit up and asked everyone else, “which floor?”

“That’s us too,” said one couple. I relaxed a little.

“Us too!” said the second couple.

“Yeah, that’s where we’re going too,” said one of the two men, speaking for both of them.

I waited for the doors to close.

Then.

“Damn, girl, what you doin’ tonight?” I heard the man behind me say. My back was to him so I pretended he could have been talking to anyone.

“What? You gonna ignore me lookin’ like that?” he went on.

“Yo, check this out. She’s looking for attention too. She’s got that cute little outfit on. You like purple?” The same man asked.

“Whoooo-hoooo, she definitely likes purple,” echoed the second man.

I looked to my left and saw that the men had moved to a different spot on the elevator. How did they do that? And what is taking so long?! I looked at both couples. All four people, staring straight ahead.

“You got plans tonight!” said one of the men to me.

I looked at the couples again. No reaction.

They’re not going to let anything happen to me, I thought.

Okay.

Fuck.

You already know where you parked. You always memorize it. Keys are out. The second the door opens, you’re going to have to act not scared. Head straight for the car. Hit the button on the remote, get in, and lock the door. You can do this. You parked fairly close to the elevator. You’re the only old green Accord in the lot. Maybe only six to ten cars away. You know what to do.

I had a plan.

While I was thinking more heckling had been going on. The couples were getting more and more uncomfortable. The fact that they were between me and the guys comforted me. They would stop any attempted pursuit, right?

It was extremely clear by now that these men planned to try to talk with me — at the very least once this ride was over.

Floor three. This was it. The doors opened and I started taking large steps toward my car as fast as possible.

“Where you goin,’ sweetheart?” I heard a man say.

“Yeah, don’t play us like that. The night’s not over,” said the other man.

I looked back. The couples were almost out of sight heading in the opposite direction, there were other people walking in the lot but nowhere near me at the moment, while the men — were gaining on me!?

I snapped out of asking myself what kind of people, riding the elevators with their wives, or dates, or girlfriends, or husbands, or boyfriends could possibly let this happen exactly like it was happening.

RUN.

That’s all I felt. I went into complete flight mode knuckling my key even tighter hitting my remote over and over and over again until I could see my car’s lights blink, indicating it was unlocked. I kept clicking it just in case, moving as fast as I could. I didn’t look back again. But I could hear them. My running must have caused them to run too.

This is how I die, I thought. I’m going to get raped and murdered and no one will ever find me. My Mom, my Dad, Jesus.

GET TO THE FUCKING CAR.

I turned into the driver’s side nook cursing the car next to mine for parking so close. I got in and pushed down the lock holding it there as one of the men tried pulling open the door.

Put the key in the ignition. You’re getting out of here. Turn the car on.

The man outside started banging on my windows and hood. His friend had caught up with him but didn’t touch my car. The guy on my car was getting angrier. Screaming worse and worse things to me that I cannot remember. I was numb.

Holding down the lock with one hand (knowing that really wasn’t doing much) and having turned on the car, I used the other hand to put the car into reverse.

“Yo!” the further away man said.

“What?” the guy on my car yelled back. He put his hands on my trunk and stood there, looking at me through my rear view window. He wasn’t moving.

“Dude, let’s go find something else, she ain’t shit,” the further away man said.

Please work please listen to him oh my God please get the fuck off my car and go away oh God help me please God don’t let them get in.

The man on my car slammed his fists on my trunk twice.

“Yeah, fine! No one needs this shit anyway,” he said, and he walked away heading toward the other man.

I breathed for the first time since I saw the other people in the elevator letting this happen. My hands were shaking. I was terrified. When I was sure they were out of sight I exited the parking deck, certain they would jump out at any point while getting out of there. I couldn’t stop looking in my rear view.

You don’t want to wake Mom and Dad, I thought. They would be asleep by now. Don’t worry them. You’re fine. You’re fine! You made it. You did exactly what you needed to. You survived.

Still, I thought these guys might be tailing me all the way home, so shaken and paranoid that I couldn’t relax even after getting inside my house. I locked the door in two ways, something we never often did in my home growing up. I left my parents a note so they wouldn’t worry about the chain (or break it) and taped it to the doorknob in case they woke up before me.

And then, alone in my room, in disbelief, I drank.

I wrote the following Facebook post at 1:26 A.M., still completely shaken:

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Re-reading that, I remember signing up for the self-defense class my first semester of my freshman year of college. I had dated a guy very briefly who, as it turned out, had excessive control issues and major anger issues. I told you, I’m an anxious person. I wanted to make sure I was ready just in case. I remember coming back from class having bruises on my arms and shins from practicing so hard against myself.

And yes, all of the thoughts of self-defense came into my head at some point. Since there were two men, I knew that even if I was lucky enough to disable one by putting my key through his neck I might have to use the other techniques I learned on the other one.

I kept drinking. And drinking. Until I finally fell asleep.

How many times do self-defense moves ruminate in your mind while walking anywhere throughout the day? Are you always watching others? Getting a grasp on your surroundings, potential weak spots, people who don’t look safe, etc.?

Now, I say, “people who don’t look safe,” because of the second time that I was almost attacked. They didn’t look safe. And as it turned out, they weren’t.

But first, I promised you the responses to my Facebook post:

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I numbered (poorly) “1,” “2,” and “3,” because those people were out with me earlier in the night. “2” and “3” were in the car that dropped me off, if that’s at all relevant. The rest of the comments:

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Number “4” up there is the friend who dropped me off in front of the hotel.

I wrote the thing at the bottom with the yellow cover-up over it. My response was prompted by the person who I have written “nickname” near, above. (He used a nickname which would give away who he is — to probably more people than he’d like — so I had to kill it.)

But what the actual fuck?

Yeah, I should have done something differently. <– SARCASM INCLUDED. Jesus Christ.

I tried to walk to my car.

That’s it, people! I didn’t provoke, invite, or otherwise suggest I wanted any part of the rest of the evening of these men. So that was a totally fucked up response.

Unfortunately, it, and those like it, are not uncommon. A lot of people do this. It’s almost never appropriate. Victim blaming is NOT okay and it NEEDS to stop PERMANENTLY.

A couple of things.

I am SO MUCH MORE VOCAL online about things like this NOW than I was six years ago when this happened. I was still in shock when I wrote it. I had over 800 Facebook “friends” at the time. This matters only insofar as getting only eleven comments was pretty pathetic, I felt, especially at the time.

I’m not Facebook friends with ANY of the people numbered anymore. And I’m not friends with them in real life either. They know one of my rapists. And I couldn’t deal with that. Especially after I told number “2” about the rape, and subsequently saw her in photos with the rapist on Facebook afterwards. (See earlier blog posts for that rant.) Just like I’m not about to be “friends” with the rapist who sent me that request, I’m not going to be friends with people who are friends with my rapist, ESPECIALLY if you know he raped me.

So now, I protect myself. It is legal to carry pepper spray of a certain concentration and below in New Jersey. So I do. And every time I feel unsafe I walk with it out and opened. And one time, I thought it was going to be the only thing that saved my life. But one bedtime story is enough for tonight, kids.

Reliving all this trauma takes a toll on me that needs to be monitored.

I’ll share my second experience and my run in with “security” at the O.A.R. concert next time (probably).

NO ONE should have to exist in this world feeling unsafe just because they are out alone. Women don’t need escorts anymore, although, sometimes I think to myself, I sure wouldn’t mind a friend to make me feel safer walking everywhere I go. Maybe that’s why I pick larger men to date. For safety. Except they can turn that on you too, as I well know.

Just know, if you’re reading this, and you’ve never had to experience something like it, worry about it, etc., count yourself lucky and blessed. I have friends who get harassed weekly, if not more, on the street — merely for existing in public as women.

I ask that if you are a woman especially, but if you are a man as well, that you stand up and don’t allow that shit to happen. If you’re with someone who says something he/she shouldn’t to someone going about their day, take control and make it right.

All we have is life.

Peace.

2 thoughts on “One Foot In Front Of The Other.

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