Based on the tragedy that occurred this week in Santa Barbara, I wanted to share a quick story.
Many years ago, I was trained to be a rape-crisis counselor. I spent sixty hours in the offices of ELAWC, learning everything from how to deal with a rape victim from the moment she arrives at the hospital, to how to handle the situation when the woman called their hotline. However, the one lesson I remember most was when one of the counselors shared with us the following:
When men go out at night and park their car, their biggest concern is often how far they need to walk to their destination or if their car will get bumped (read scratched) by the persons parked in front or behind them. Sometimes they might worry that their car will be broken into or worse yet, stolen.
When a woman goes out at night and parks her car, the first thing she will do is look around and take in her surroundings. She will either spend a moment or two, or longer, depending on the neighborhood, wondering if it’s worth the gamble of being raped and possibly killed, to avoid paying a valet or driving around and around for God knows how long before she finds a spot closer to where she is going. She will often ask someone to walk her back to her car because she doesn’t feel comfortable going on her own, especially if it’s very late in evening. If she does venture back to her car on her own, she will often look around her the entire walk, hoping to see others walking around as well. Many will have their car key between their fingers, ready to be used as a weapon, as they were taught to do, at some point, in their younger life. There are times she will be frightened because she heard something and is afraid to look behind her, all the while wondering if she is about to be attacked. When the woman finally gets into her car a feeling of relief will wash over her because she knows she is safe.
The most interesting part of the story was at the end, when the counselor told us that women go through all of this and yet, are completely unaware that we do it. She told us that sadly, it is instinctual.
Ever since I heard that story, I have noticed that that is exactly what I do, and have done, since I can remember. Sadly, my daughter, her daughter and her daughter’s daughter will likely have to follow the same pattern because as long as people continue to shame women, they won’t have a choice.