Walking home alone used to be my escape — until I was sexually harassed
I kept blaming myself for looking the way I do because it had to be my fault
by Gail Vivar
At the beginning of this year, I had a routine where I would listen to music while I walked when I needed to clear my head. It was my escape — never having to worry about anyone disturbing my peace and for some odd reason, the tranquility of it all made me the happiest.
It took two seconds to take that all away from me. That peace I had, the happiness I felt—it was all gone when I walked home that night and was assaulted.
I used to walk with confidence, but now I tremble every time someone in a bicycle passes me by, because my attackers were riding bicycles that night.
That night I wasn’t walking home from a party at 2am
I was walking home from finishing a paper at the library two blocks away from my apartment at 8pm when two boys approached me.
They began grabbing my ass, and other parts of my body, while shouting vulgar things at me. Thankfully, I was close to my apartment, and they stopped harassing me as soon as I reached my apartment.
But that was the last time I walked home alone.
After that moment, there was nothing I could do to make myself feel safe when I was alone. I would question my self-worth, because I didn’t feel worthy of anything or anyone afterwards.
It was the way it happened and the fact I never fought back that impacted me, and it ended up determining the way I lived my life.
I couldn’t even be touched by anyone without feeling unnerved or being reminded of what happened
I felt ashamed and disgusted with my body. I kept blaming myself for looking the way I do because it had to be my fault. I would look in the mirror and say “You’re always going to look easy and slutty, what’s the point of even trying?”
I would hook up with guys with no emotions, trying to conceal the feeling of hurt that I felt when no one understood me. There were times when I would just lay there and let the men penetrate me as I stared at the ceiling wondering when it would be over or when I finally would stop feeling hurt. I thought if I wasn’t worth respect from others then why should I ever respect myself?
I screamed, cursed all the words you could think of, and finally reached the point where I blamed myself for being foolish enough for thinking I would be safe on my own. I thought I deserved this.
I should have known
I’ve been told to walk with pepper spray or find a way to protect myself, but it won’t change the fact that myself and countless other women do not feel safe when they are simply walking alone, because there is a possibility of them being assaulted.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, college women have a higher chance of getting assaulted on their campuses, and it’s one of the main reasons why we’re afraid to walk by ourselves at night.
life reminder: if you see a girl walking down the street alone that isn't an open invitation for you to start harassing her
— mack lewis (@lewismack126) May 27, 2017
One in five women are sexually assaulted while in college and more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.
That’s why when I’m asked why I leave anywhere early, my response is pretty straightforward: I do not have a choice
The people who sexually harassed me turned out to be part of a group of 200 juveniles who were attacking people around the streets of Philadelphia. I wasn’t the only one they assaulted.
“I can definitely say I don’t feel safe since the attack,” a victim of the mob attacks told me. “I have never been on campus later than 5:30pm since it happened.”
To many people, these attacks were just another thing that occurred at our university, but to the people who were affected by this event personally, this mob attack never left us and never will.
Even in broad day light when I catch someone staring at me when I walk, I debate of whether I should take out my keys and put them in my fist, just in case.
I think of every worst case scenario
If they catcall at me, my heart starts beating quickly, because I’m reminded of the catcalls that started my assault. I will never feel safe on my own.
As many young women know, if we do not speak up about these incidents, no one will ever know what women truly go through. Everyone is different, and some of us are stronger than others. I continue to battle those thoughts of blaming myself for everything.
If you’re afraid to walk alone, I know how you feel. You may feel like you’re numb, and no one can comprehend all of this.
You’re scared of the damage this could do to you.
If you or anyone you know needs to speak to a professional, call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
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