A month or so ago, I received a gift from The Gun Divas. Two books by Gavin De Becker. I was currently reading 3 other books at the time, but that night the books came, I opened up one, the Gift Of Fear and began reading.
The book opens with a story about a woman named Kelly. Kelly is in the stairwell of her apartment complex on her way up to her apartment when she encounters a man. She has never seen him before, but he seems nice enough. He offers to help, she says no, the have an exchange of words. She isn’t sure why, she is not comfortable with him. Nothing about him is scary. He is dressed nice, he is being nice and he is making no threats at all. You probably have already guessed this does not end well. The man rapes Kelly in brutal fashion.
The guy who attacked me also was dressed nicely. He had short well kept hair. He was clean and he spoke very softly and he smiled. His eyes were cold and lacked soul. My daughter’s pictures are bone chillingly accurate and when she talks of that day, his eyes are the thing she often comes back to, but he smiled and he said all the right things a nice person is suppose to say.
I wish more classes would focus on the fact that many attacks on woman happen slower and are not quite as obvious as the person who runs up behind you and screams some threat. Many attacks are fast and fit the profile of someone coming up behind, grabbing you and a struggle ensues, but I would hasten to guess, from my reading that there are an equal number of attacks that happen in a more stalking kind of way. For women the bar room scene is less about a discussion that gets out of hand and quickly turns into a brawl and more of the profiling, get to know you, even though you don’t trust me, get you to at the very least follow me outta here, kind of thing. No class has time to discuss every possible scenario, but I think it would be beneficial to at least mention that for women, it can be very different. Often the wolf is in fact dressed like a sheep.
I was not raped, but much of my story and hers are the same. A man we did not know approached us, uninvited and did not leave us alone when we asked. Kelly’s guy also said things like “Don’t worry” “I won’t hurt you” Like me, she felt those words were the opposite of comforting. She did make it out alive as did I, but not without some tough life lessons. She threw herself into healing and learning how to never again be a victim. She says looking back she can see that her internal voice was talking to her, that her intuition had been guiding her along and she can see where she listened and that without knowing she did act on signals that helped her to save her own life. My attack was interrupted, so I can not says as definitively as she can, but, I too, can see things I did right that day, that at the very least kept me alive until someone else came along. Kelly talks about being tired of feeling guilty for letting him get that close to her and tired of being blamed for being stupid.
After I got home from Memphis I picked up the book again and began to read. I am not surprised that the universe conspired that I would read the chapter I read the day after I wrote my post about the trip.
The author says: “I’v seen many times that after the shock of violence has begun to heal, victims will be carried in their minds back to the hallway or parking lot, back to the sights, smells, and sounds, back to the time when they still had choices, before they fell under someone’s malevolent control, before they refused the gift of fear.”
As I realized on the plane coming home, there was plenty of time for me to have made different choices between when I first felt fear and when he was on top me. I was afraid and I did not act on that fear, not enough anyway.
DeBecker says, “Often they will say about some particular detail. I realize this now, but I didn’t know it then. Of course, if it is in their heads now, then it was in their heads then. What they mean is that they only now accept the significance. With denial, the details we need for the best predictions float silently by us like life preservers, and while the man overboard may enjoy the comfortable belief that he is still in his stateroom, there is soon a price to pay for his daydream.
The price is high.
“Maybe some good can come of this.” “The weird thing is, with all this information, I am actually less afraid walking around now then I was before it happened-but there must be an easier way for people to learn.”-Kelly
DeBecker, A woman could offer no greater cooperation to her soon to be attacker than to spend time telling herself, “But he seems like such a nice man”…. A woman waiting for an elevator sees a man and she feels apprehension… How does she respond to natures strongest strongest survival signal? She suppresses it and says “I am not going to live like this.”
The irony is that so many of us say, we are not going to live our lives in fear. We are not going to learn how to protect ourselves or carry a gun because we refuse to let the bad guy win. We refuse to give him that kind of power over our lives. We use the excuse of not being afraid and that lie puts us in the most vulnerable position we can be in, defenseless. When you are out of excuses and when someone is lying on top you telling you exactly how they plan to take full control of your life, well, then you will get to experience the kind of life altering fear that Kelly and I did.
There has got to be an easier way for one to learn.