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My #metoo stories are nowhere near as bad as what many, many people had to endure. I simply have thousands of paper cuts of occasions when I was made to feel unsafe and degraded because of my gender.
The first time I remember being followed by a man, I was 12. I was confused and surprised, but my parents had warned me about bad people and I knew the intentions of this person were not good. Nothing happened because I was protected: I was walking my dog, who was a massive, intimidating German Shepherd. It was clear to me that my pet was protecting me from bad things, not the law or society.
I won't even go into the catcalls, the everyday harassment on buses, the unwanted touching in crowds and the underground. I will tell you I had memorized a fake phone number to give out, in case someone became too persistent. I have a number of friends who did the same. I won't detail how humiliating it is that I have a boyfriend is more powerful than Leave me alone.
The consequence of all this is that as soon as I was old enough to drive, all my focus was to remove myself from the harassment in public transportation. I went through a Goth phase that lasted for years, and only now I see what the answer should have been to people asking "Why do you always wear black?" I used to shrug it off, say "Because I like it" but the real answer was it was a natural strategy to try and scare harassers off by looking mean.
It kind of worked. I locked myself up in a dojo and studied martial arts for 12 years, and the reason I did it was to gain self-esteem, the confidence of knowing the basics of defending myself in bad situations. I also attended a specific class tailored for women, should they need to defend themselves from assault.
The teaching panel was my martial arts master, another instructor who was also a police offer, and a psychologist. The police officer and the psychologist offered a very interesting profile of the average rapist. The average rapist is a coward. These individuals will typically choose victims that appear smaller and weaker than them.
So the first thing we were taught to do when faced with assault, was to become, in that moment, the predator instead of the prey. Mind you, we shouldn't live in a society where we are forced to learn these things: but it helps to know them. I was taught to grab my aggressor back, instead of pulling away. I was taught that the dynamic of assault is all about power.
This doesn't help when the abuse is psychological, and the power is not only physical but legal (see: Weinstein) but it does help on the most basic level.
I have oriented my career in a direction that seeks to avoid harassment on the job because I know the scale of the problem, and I'd rather deal with many other headaches than that. I know part of me is basically in hiding, but I'm ok with that.
The reason why I'm telling this story because there was an attempt of harassment where I felt I came out on top, even though I was very scared. I was going home late at night, in my car. Another car with 4 men pulls up next to me, they stare at me lewdly at a red light and then start following me. My thoughts started racing. I could either drive to the police station, and then have to walk on the way in, or try and do something.
My training kicked in. I slowed down to the point they had to pass me or block the traffic, and I started following them, in the middle lane of a three-lane road. I could tell they were confused. This was not going according to their plan. They slowed down, and then I made my move.
I darted to left lane, accelerating through the yellow light. They were left at the red light, wondering about what had happened.
I got home safe, knowing I had outsmarted the idiots. Sometimes it's all the victory you can get.