Thursday, April 24, 2014

Danger on Aisle 2?

Sorry for the delay in posts, I have to admit that it has been an overwhelming experience- I needed some time to recover from so many days of 24/7 rape talk.  

A couple days ago I was talking to a close friend, and she told me about an experience she had at the grocery.  THE GROCERY.  She was looking for a box of cereal and a man on the aisle hit on her, asked for her number, and when she tried to walk away, he grabbed her.  

At first, I was outraged and astonished, but then I thought about it and realized that I have been harassed in varying degrees in so many normal places, like the cereal aisle at the grocery.  Upon that realization, I became disgusted.  I know I'm not alone when I say that most every woman regularly has to deal with something like that, and we always play it off like its completely acceptable behavior- boys will be boys, etc.  It is NOT acceptable!  A huge step in the direction of change will be women drawing that line and not acting like its ok; nip it in the bud.  I encourage everyone to fight against this behavior: ladies, instead of laughing it off, give your hecklers and ass-grabbers a death stare and, if you are up to it, tell them its not okay in no uncertain terms; men, restrain from heckling, and speak up on behalf of women if you see them being heckled or grabbed at.

Another lesson that came from the cereal aisle of the grocery is that it is okay to freeze.  SO many people have all kinds of things to say about how someone being assaulted or raped should act- scream, scratch, punch, kick, run, scream some more.  Everyone has thought on some level about how they think they will react in those situations, very rarely does anything go like you plan.  Everyone responds in one of three ways: fight, flight, or freeze.  Freeze is so common, once you realize what's about to happen many people just shut down.  THAT IS OKAY!  There is no right or wrong way to react to being assaulted or raped, however you react is the right way for you.  These times are traumatic, and our brains each cope with trauma in its own way.  I have reacted differently in each situation.  I have frozen, dissociated, fought, tried to run, etc.  About 6 months after starting treatment for PTSD, I was home in Memphis visiting my family and some friends, and a man grabbed me and almost threw me down on the ground, and I vividly remember what went through my head in that moment: "NO MORE TRAUMA!"  I swung my purse at the guys head with all my strength and ended up knocking him out (courtesy of my friend having secretly put a beer in my purse for reasons that remain unknown).  Then I ran like hell.  When my friend picked me up I suddenly realized what had happened and I dove back out of the car and threw up.  But other times, I would initially struggle then go numb, check out of my body until it was over.  There's simply no telling how you will react in the moment.

I have started learning self defense, and so much of it is just pure repetition to build muscle memory.  I highly recommend taking some kind of self defense class, especially to the survivors reading this.  It gives you a sense of power and empowerment, which combats the feelings of helplessness and victimhood.  It has helped tremendously.

So just to recap- I challenge everyone to not shrug off the creepy catcall or the unwanted gropings, its called sexual harassment, molestation, sexual assault, and more.  So much of that is illegal, too.  We need to stop laughing off these encounters.  Men, tell those harassers to shut up and act right, but more importantly set an example for the other men you know.  Finally, there is no right way to respond before, during, or after an attack.  You can freeze, dissociate, scream and claw, or cluck like a chicken- it does not matter!  And how you act and react in no way diminishes what you went through.  It is horrible and traumatic no matter what, so don't ever be ashamed or confused by however you acted in order to SURVIVE.