Friday, April 27, 2012


It's not often that I feel safe.

Walking to my car.
Walking to my house.
Being home alone.
Passing a man while I'm jogging.
Walking by a group of men when I'm alone.
Wearing clothes that might be perceived by someone to mean that I was "just asking for it."

The other day my counselor said, "Heather, just because you've been hurt by several men, does not mean that all men are sexual predators."

Even though I know she's right because I know so many wonderful men, unfortunately, that's still hard for me to wrap my mind around.
Because of that guy who yanked up my skirt.
Because of that guy who grabbed for my butt.
Because of that guy who would laughingly push my face toward his crotch and say, "Oh come on woman, don't fight it!"
Because of that guy who wouldn't say a word to me but just slowly looked me up and down like a buffet gifted to him by God "him"self.
Because of that guy who would regularly comment on certain body parts that he liked.
Because of that guy who would often miss my shoulder and land on my breast.
Because of that guy in Cambodia.

Living in Cambodia taught me how to survive in such an unpredictable place.
That toughness will protect me in a world that just isn't good.
That the more I expect possible aggression from strangers, the better off I'll be.
That men just aren't safe.

I haven't really let down those defenses that I adapted in Cambodia four years ago. And that guy in Cambodia is still making me cry. Even now that I'm on the other side of the world in a safer environment, now that the moment is over, often it still feels like I'm in it.

During my yoga class yesterday, the instructor said, "This is a safe place," and I broke down and cried. I cried because I recognized that she was right. That in this room, in this place, during this hour, I was safe and yet, I carry the wounds of being violated with me everywhere.

The States aren't perfectly safe and devoid of sexual horrors committed against women. After all, one-third of college men polled would carry out a rape if they knew that they could get away with it (Fisher and Sloan 1995) So unfortunately, no woman anywhere can completely let down her defenses and pretend like there aren't certain risks just for being female.

But this is a little different and that guy in Cambodia is not here.
I don't need to carry him around with me everywhere.
I don't need to assume that all men are like him.
This is not a safe world, but there are safe places.

Yoga is a safe place. Counseling is a safe place. Jeremy is a safe place. My community of friends is a safe place. And healing will only happen when I trust these safe places, and gain strength to work toward mending the innumerable unsafe places for women.

I can feel safe.