Does rape keep you up at night, too?

I lay in bed, tossing around to every uncomfortable position. I closed my eyes, but my mind kept wandering.
Finally I got up. I checked all the locks to my apartment — twice. I left the hallway light on and placed my portable phone by my bedside. I felt like I was 5 years old again, scared of the Boogeyman.
In fact, my mind was fixated on the news I’d heard that day about two University women who had been raped the night before, when several men allegedly broke into their apartment and stole some of their belongings.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I couldn’t help thinking that it could have been me.
Rape scares me. It may well be my biggest fear. And it’s not just the physical act that gets under my skin. I see rape as an entity symbolizing a threat to all women’s safety.
Somehow, that rape affected me more than any other news I routinely hear. Maybe it was because I was home alone that night while my roommates were away. Maybe it was because I don’t know where I’d go for help if anything were to happen to me.
Probably it was because they were college-aged, like me.
Unlike headlines of murders, stabbings or bank robberies I read about every day, rape is more personal to me because I’m a woman. Rape happens to men also, but women live in constant fear of it.
If I took a collection of women’s key chains, I’m sure I’d have evidence that other women fear becoming a victim, too. Just among my circle of friends, I know two or three who carry pepper spray on their key chains. One carries a personal alarm.
I carry a thin, 6-inch black stick called a Kubotan, pronounced “koob-i-tan” (they cost about three bucks, but I got mine for free). I also have a whistle on my key chain.
I wonder, do men think about these things too? Do many men carry around pepper spray? Probably not.
I wonder if men know how their presence, in certain circumstances, can cause a woman to feel uneasy. I wonder if men know I feel comfortable around them when I’m at the ATM during the day, with plenty of people around. But if I’m alone with the same man present at night at the bank, it makes me a little nervous.
It’s nothing personal against men, of course. But when I hear about crimes against women at night, I can’t help but put up my guard.
I even took a self-defense course. I learned how to shout “Ki-yaaah!” from the gut and how to gouge an attacker’s eyes out with my two fingers.
Sometimes I’d make my ex-boyfriend come up behind me and attack me, just for practice. He’d always laugh and say I’d freeze up if the real thing ever happened.
Maybe I wouldn’t go for the eyeballs like they taught, but at least I know which areas of a man are most vulnerable (though some parts are obvious). At least I feel stronger just knowing I have a few options.
It may sound like I’m paranoid, but really, I just like to think I’m not helpless. My little weapons give me an edge of self-confidence when physical strength comes into play.
Rape is more than just sex. It’s about power and control. Maybe that’s why I think it’s offensive in more than just a physical sense.
Rape takes away the very being of a human. Rape takes it selfishly, without permission.
Rape humiliates a woman’s sexuality. It reduces her wholeness as a respectable, funny, intelligent person to a lifeless body. A nothing. A blow-up doll that can be used, discarded and forgotten.
We know very little about the two University women who were raped a few months ago. The crime against them makes them nameless for their protection; it makes them anonymous victims.
But that does not mean that the violence against them did not affect others. It shook our community. It shook me.
I hate the part of me that fears rape and fears the night and fears men who are strangers. It bothers me that I have to always be thinking about my safety.
I can’t take a late-night run by myself around the block. I don’t like to walk to my car after a late night at the Daily. I hate that I always have to find a place to walk or park in the streetlight or look around when I walk down a dark street.
If you think I’m alone, look at the evidence.
Roughly 95 percent of people who use the escort system at the University are women, said John Pack, program manager of the Security Monitor Program.
“Using the escort system means one thing and one thing only — you’re smart,” Pack said. “If you’re walking with someone else you’re significantly increasing your safety.”
Pack said safety in numbers, by either walking with an escort or with a friend, is a safety precaution. All people, male and female, should recognize that using the escort is an important safety measure, he said.
Strength in numbers can also be empowering. Last week, I attended a “Take Back the Night Rally” at the University. It’s an event in which people march down the street at night, chanting that they’re tired of being afraid of crimes that occur in the dark.
I marveled at how good it felt to be walking as a group of mostly women, stating that we owned the evening. But even as we rallied, I knew the next evening and the evening after would not be ours.
Sara Goo’s column appears every Tuesday. She welcomes comments via e-mail to [email protected]
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