Saturday, November 24, 2012

Raising The Hackles: Sexual Assault of a Runner

There are a few things that raise my hackles. Because I love running more than just about anything, well, maybe more than anything... anything that would threaten my running I would fight to the death. I honestly think I could kill for it.

So today when my fellow blogger Heather at 365 Days of Awesome posted this link on Facebook about her friend Elizabeth who was assaulted on her run in Mobile, Alabama, I could feel the little hairs on the back of my neck standing up.

Women are people. We know that.

Unfortunately there are men out there who think men are people, or full-fledged human beings, while women are not people, we are less. As if women are somehow inferior beings, that we are objects that are not fully up to the level of men. I won't even get into the power and control issue, or the criminal, sick psycho mind yet.

There is a rage that comes over me when I read a story like Elizabeth's, just like the rage I feel when someone suggests I curtail my running for safety purposes, or when a man suggests that somehow a woman shouldn't be out running alone.

Such rage is not logical, I know, but it absolutely infuriates me to think that he even thinks that. It just pisses me off that it even has to cross his mind.

One time in a race in the bottom of this canyon in New Mexico I was having a conversation with a guy who suggested just that. First I countered his argument, and I remember being so pissed off that I took off and ran far ahead of him, up the trail to the top of the canyon as fast as I could. I couldn't wait to get away from him.

Why would a man say a thing like that? Because he knows there are men out there who think like that. He's probably heard them talk about women and realizes these sick bastards really do exist. Maybe more of them than I'd like to imagine exist. Or maybe he was one of those sick bastards himself.

I am glad Elizabeth wasn't hurt worse physically. And she sounds like she is strong and has a good attitude toward life. She says she isn't going to let him take running away from her. But you cannot minimize what happened to her today. It is traumatic and that guy touched her body against her will. I want to kill him. But I think justice will only truly be served if he is locked up for the rest of his life. Take his freedom away, because he has taken her freedom away.

Whether a man gropes you or forces you to have sex with him, or whatever in between...it's an attack, it's a power play, it's violent, and the effects are damaging and long-lasting. It's psychologically traumatic and that is what is most difficult to heal from.

It's easy to blow it off if some asshole is leering at you and doesn't physically touch you, but it's still enough to send chills down your spine and remind you of your safety being at risk. You feel like prey.

I feel like I would kill, like I could kill, that predator. I think the rage I have would allow me to kill him. But I think anyone who impacts another person's life like that does not deserve to have their own freedom. I don't think killing them is right or just. I think justice would be having that person locked up for the rest of their life, because the impact of their action will affect the person they assaulted for the rest of their life.

Not that I would be able to kill. At 5'1" and about 120 pounds I'm not exactly at a size or strength advantage. But the force of my rage I think, if I were able to somehow gain advantage, could kill a person. Instead of killing him I might surgically alter him instead. Remove the thing he thinks is his weapon, first of all, but then I think his arms should be cut off, and legs too. Probably everything but his torso and head should be removed. I'd do it myself.

The depth of my rage doesn't even make sense to me. I feel it, and I'm not sure that any other topic has the ability to awaken those feelings in me. How dare you, anyone, take my freedom away.

I don't feel like doing violence to anyone really, except when those hormones get a little wacky and people hang pizza ads on my front door, but this is one thing where I feel I could truly hurt someone.

Elizabeth brings up a lot of good points at the end of her post. I'd like to emphasize that being aware of your surroundings is so important. One of the things I see people doing these days that drives me crazy, that I see a lot of women doing, since the iPhone and all those similar gadgets are out, is texting or talking on the phone while out walking, that is the perfect opportunity for someone to take advantage...

I'm guilty of some of those things myself. The night I saw the little boy on the sidewalk is a perfect example. I was out by myself, at night, visible, running in a familar place, my neighborhood. I don't normally go at the same time or the same route but there could easily have been a creep out there who recognized me. I didn't have my cell phone that night, either. I left Dennis a note, he knew when I should be home and where I was going. But when I'm out at night I should have my cell phone.

When I run alone at night, I do not wear music for that exact reason, I do want to be aware of my surroundings. I love to run at night, and I love to run far, and I like to listen to music under the night sky. I don't do it as much as I'd like to, for the reasons of safety and vulnerability.

When I can find a running partner at night, it's awesome, and my friends Doug and Paul and Shannon have run with me at night when I had to get those long runs in that went beyond daylight. I love the safety of a race, when I'm on the track or a race course and with other people. I can put my music on and zone out, and I don't have to worry. It's heaven, running under the moon or stars to music.

But it pisses me off that I am not as free as a man is. Not that men couldn't be assaulted too. But its less likely to happen, because they are not seen as vulnerable objects to the degree women are.

Running in open areas, in the daytime, even where there are other people around, I've been harassed by creeps, construction workers, and dumbasses working on roofs. I don't take it lightly. I don't take it at all, and anyone who gives me shit, I am going to find a way to hold them accountable. I just don't put up with it. I got some construction guys fired a couple of years back, right before Christmas, and I don't feel bad about it one bit. Let them explain to their wives and daughters why they don't have a paycheck.

If they're construction workers, get the name of the company with the contract, and the project manager. Believe me, it's worth the time. If they're street workers, get a hold of the office of the city or municipality. They'll listen. Do it the same day it happens.

Every woman who allows that shit to go on, or allows her son to become one of those bozos, is contributing to the problem. You just have to have that zero tolerance, back in your face attitude or it won't ever stop. I know how to give it back in Spanish too, because pendejos don't always speak English. Would you talk to your daughter/mother/sister like that? Habla con tu hija/madre/hermana asi?

Be safe. It makes me angry that women have this additional burden that we have to run with. Don't put up with bullshit, fight back with everything you have. The roads and trails belong to us, too.

7 comments:

giraffy said...

I agree with everything. In the comments on her post, MULTIPLE women have come forward saying this same man has either accosted them or concerned them on that same path.

Seriously, how does something like this happen for so long, to so many people, and he's not stopped??

Alene Gone Bad said...

THAT pisses me off, hearing that. You mean other people had reported this guy before and law enforcement hasn't been out there trying to catch him? THAT is bullshit and lame.

mike_hinterberg said...

Sad story, agree with the righteous anger, but one quick bit:
"Or maybe he was one of those sick bastards himself."
I don't know the full conversation with that particular New Mexican, but in the interest of getting men to understand the problem, I'd put that guy's attitude closer to ignorance -- similar to a typical doctor that thinks running more than 25M/week is "unhealthy", e.g. -- than to paint every ignorant comment with a similar brush as possible rapist.

That said, I'll say that such actions are not merely taking freedoms away -- like voting, free speech, assembly -- but basic human rights, which is much worse. One's own body, privacy, and ability to live without fear are at the absolute fundamental level of eating and breathing.

I agree and can only empathize with the clear disparity women have with regard to safety. I can't even hold the thought of something like that happening to my wife for more than a few seconds before getting sick to my stomach and enraged.

But I can say, if it happened to anyone in Ft Collins and the person was still at-large, I don't think I'd be alone roaming the trails and roads every night until he was found. That, to me, suggests another unfortunate disparity related more to society in different parts of the country, where safety is less of a guarantee, people look out for each other less, women may feel too scared or ashamed to report crimes, and police may be more unresponsive. In that regard, we live here precisely because it's safe enough for human beings to get around outside. But by no means does that make the larger problems acceptable at all. The main thing I/we can think of to do on a regular basis is to be out there as much as possible so that sick people know they can't get away with it.

Alene Gone Bad said...

All good points, Mike. We live in a place where we can easily forget about the dangers out there, but we are still vulnerable. Maybe even more so in some ways.

There are still too many people who are raised without respect for their basic human rights, and that abusive behavior is what gets passed down and learned. Same with the attitudes "boys will be boys" and such that allow such behavior to be excused.

All adult men and women are responsible for how we act and how we treat others, and for changing things when they are not good. From what I see on a daily basis, a large percentage of people don't even know how to be responsible parents.

Too many people still don't "get" basic human rights, which is why we still have bullying, abuse, bad work environments, and so on...

All things to be aware of and to work for change on a daily, individual basis.

Anonymous said...

Instead of succinctly making a point, the only thing you communicated in your post is rage. It doesn't matter at who - it could be a man staring, it could be a man advising you to be careful, it could be a rapist because after all they are all the same - they are all men.

Alene Gone Bad said...

Anonymous, first of all it would be nice to know your name and gender, but it really is irrelevant. Yes I do have rage when I think of someone violating my rights as a human being, wouldn't you? I don't feel rage at a man staring or leering, I usually see him as a pathetic creature who lacks social skills. A man advising me to be careful? Anyone s entitled to advise me to be careful, I can choose to take it or leave it, but you have to be present to experience the entire context of their comments which includes nonverbal language. And no, not all men are the same. Neither are all women. Women can be rapists too, and men can be raped. I think it's perfectly acceptable to feel rage at a violation like that. What's even more important is that you do something constructive about it, which I do by speaking up and not putting up with behaviors and habits that are blown off by apathetic people, that contribute to a culture of abuse.

Alene Gone Bad said...

Furthermore, Anonymous, men who are threatened by women getting angry and not taking a man's advice should take their dominionist ideas and go back to the dark ages, or better yet, go the way of the dinosaurs. Women are people, too. Welcome to the 21st century!