There comes a point in your life when you realize you aren’t some invincible being. Some of us take longer to come to this realization than others, but the fact of the matter stays the same.
As a woman I learned that I needed to realize that I’m not invincible. My husband isn’t always going to be there to protect me and neither are my friends, family, or even the police. Sadly, I came to this realization in a very scary situation that could have been truly harmful had I not been paying attention to my surroundings.
My first year in college, I went to a school that I absolutely hated. It was in the middle of nowhere with a McDonalds, a Wal-Mart, and some “shopping center” that seemed to be stuck in the 80’s. Not to mention, I knew NO ONE. My roommate was doing Lord only knows what every night stumbling in at 4 in the morning and no one in my dorm had anything in common with me. One night, I wanted to take a break from studying. I figured I would hit up that lame shopping center down the street and kill some time. Since it was really the only thing to do in the entire town besides get hammered, the front end of the parking lot was full. I parked a bit of a distance away from the first store I was going to go into but thought it would be fine because I pretty much had a straight shot to each store from my car. I walked around a bit, in and out of stores. When I was in one of the boutiques, I looked up at a mirror at the top of the wall and noticed 4 guys starring at me and whispering to each other on the other side of the isle I was in. I thought nothing of it but felt awkward and decided to move along. I got over to a pair of jeans and was surprised I actually found something more my style. So of course, I was going to try it on. As I was walking to the fitting room, I looked up and saw the 4 guys following me from a short distance. Being that there was hardly anyone in the store and I had an extremely uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach, I decided the jeans weren’t worth it and set them down. I walked over to a lady and her daughter and started a conversation. When I did that, they made their way over to the other side of the store. At this point, I thought “now’s my time.. I’m going to go back to my car”. I knew it was a long walk so I grabbed my keys and put each one in between a knuckle in my right hand. My dad always told me to do this as a last resort but I always thought he was crazy until then.
I quickened my pace and kept looking over my shoulder. I started thinking that maybe I was being completely paranoid and slowed down. About 30 seconds later, I looked over my shoulder and saw them walking in my direction through the parking lot. I started weaving in and out of cars and going down other lanes to see if they would follow. Surely enough they did. At this point, I was starting to panic and began walking very quickly (almost jogging) to my car which was still about 70 spaces away from me. I looked back over my shoulder and saw that they started jogging as well. I was officially spooked. I hit the alarm button on my car over and over again until it finally went off. They paused for a second but started jogging again. I’d had it. I was done. I knew my car door remote didn’t unlock the door and using my key seemed too risky. I tried to locate the safest place for me at this point and saw that one of the stores was probably closer than my car. I made a sharp right and sprinted towards the store. They kept jogging straight and stopped right around my car and waited for a bit. One of them was even leaning up against my trunk. I walked right up to the cashier so that I would be near someone, pulled my phone out, and called the police. They were there in about 15 minutes and I told them the whole story. The officer looked outside and at that point, they had left. He escorted me back to my car and followed me home to make sure they weren’t hiding out anywhere.
I didn’t sleep one bit. I kept thinking “now they know what my car looks like”. Being that there was nothing in this stupid town, they could easily drive around the dorms and figure out my general living area. I called my husband (my boyfriend at the time) and he immediately got into his car and drove 3 hours to come stay with me through finals week.
Back then I thought this was just a scary experience, but the more I think about it the more I realize that things could have gone so differently had I not just looked over my shoulder or chose not to run straight to my car. Holding my keys like the Wolverine in my hand made me feel safer, but in all reality, there is no way I could have taken on 4 men with only my keys. What was I going to do if they actually got to me? Yell “STOP! I have keys!”? It’s not like I am some huge, strong woman who could demand that they submit to my authority. Truth is, I don’t have the strength or the ability to protect myself from people who are intentionally trying to cause me harm.
Then I think what if these 4 men DID follow me home and broke into my dorm room? What if they were armed? Honestly, what would I do at that point? The reason I was so scared was because there was nothing I could do. And I knew that.
As a woman, I want to be armed from people and experiences just like that one. Yes, I got away safely, but that’s not always the case. I don’t want to be left in a situation where I have to rely on my car keys or my mace to protect myself from danger. I don’t want someone to break into my house with a gun and not be left with one myself.
I believe that with each experience, we learn from mistakes and we grow as individuals. We get smarter and learn to think quickly on our feet. I learned that I should not go anywhere alone (especially at night) and ESPECIALLY in an area where the only people I have to rely on are police officers and a boyfriend who lived 3 hours away. I learned to be CONSTANTLY aware of my surroundings. I learned that I am NOT invincible and that I need a reliable way to defend my life. As of recently, I learned that the best way to do that is to train myself and never miss a shot.
Girls, you need to be armed. I don’t care if you’re a power-lifter, a professional wrestler, a champion fighter, or a feminist. Protect yourself. You never know what situation may arise and how you can/can’t handle it.
Stay safe ladies and practice often.