It was around 10:30 pm and I had just wrapped up a collaborative photography project for an anti trafficking group with a local male photographer. We had done some shots with a model and then we took some night cityscapes of downtown to be used for the website for the group we were both a part of. Afterwards, I went to his apartment that he shares with several other guys to load my pictures onto his computer. It was right downtown, only about a block from where my car was parked. Yet after we were done with the photos, I had to ask him to walk me back to my car.
It’s one of those things that as a woman, you are forced to be painfully aware of. We had just talked about how downtown was a major hot spot for human trafficking, so as an eighteen year old girl, walking a block through a dark ally was just not going to happen. It’s not the first time, and as I leave home for a college campus, definitely wont be the last.
I am an amateur runner. This May I started training to run and I love to take sunset runs down country roads nearby my house. I also love to have music in my earbuds to motivate me and I track all my stats on my iPhone. Yet I can’t really go running on bike trails nearby. Once, I tried to go over to this super awesome bike trail about a mile away and ran for about two miles over the hills on a beautiful day. But you know what? I felt so paranoid the entire time. My mother raised me with a heavy sense of Stranger Danger. I used to have nightmares growing up about being kidnapped. Since I was thirteen, I’ve been involved in anti trafficking efforts and have heard so many stories about girls being raped and trafficked in my own state. And yes, I’ve probably watched one too many crime shows that involve a female runner getting murdered on trails.
If I am single in my twenties, after grad school is finished and I’m “settled down,” I have no doubt that I’ll get a large dog. While I am a dog person, I would get a large one despite my preference for small dogs simply for safety purposes. That way I can go running and hiking and can sleep soundly knowing that even if my pooch is a softy at heart, he/she will scare off any intruder.
Within my first semester at college, I plan to take a self defense class. I also feel the need to get my conceal and carry permit. Which as a pacifist who can’t even watch movies with much violence because she can’t stop thinking of the souls of the people, that makes my heart heavy. Yet I am a young, single female who’s life goal is to work with survivors of human trafficking. I also plan to do a lot of work with troubled youth and women who have been abused, including domestic abuse. It’s not the safest life path to take. Therefore, I have to take precautions while also acknowledging that I could do everything right and still end up in an unsafe situation. (Note: because rape is NOT a woman’s fault. Repeat. DO NOT blame the VICTIM.)
And do you know what? I hate everything I had to write thus far. I hate it with a passion in my heart. I hate that I live in a world where I have to remember to “park under streetlights” if I go to a grocery store after dark. I hate that I can’t walk back to my dorm room by myself after working out at the wellness center across campus. I hate that I don’t feel comfortable going to parties in college because you never know when your drink could be spiked and you could wind up waking up with some vague recollection of being raped.
This is not the world that I want to live in. This is not the world that I want my friends and family to be living in. This is not the world that I want to raise my daughters in. I do not want to live in necessary paranoia just because I happen to be of a certain gender. I don’t want to live in this gut wrenching anticipation that my mentally handicapped sister will likely be taken advantage of in her lifetime because she’s pretty and vulnerable.
No, no, no. This is not what I dream of for myself or for women anywhere.
I dream of backpacking through Europe by myself.
I dream of hiking mountains.
I dream of solo camping.
I dream of going on a cross country road trip in a vintage camper by myself.
I dream of being able to walk to my car at night without twitching at every sound.
Not only do I dream of a world like this, but I want to do whatever it takes to get the world even a bit closer to that goal. Because I do not want to have my daughter someday to have to continually ask men to walk her back to her car. I want my daughters to feel as safe on the streets as my sons.
Am I crazy and delusional? Maybe.
Do I still hold on to hope? Absolutely.