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- .. . -.. *. .-..S 4.3
Young, female and scared
ut I was covered from head
to toe in a long winter coat.
had my backpack on.
Walking home from the library
one night last winter, I wasn't
drunk, wasn't showing skin - what
did those men want with me?
It doesn't matter what a woman
wears or doesn't wear - she's never
inviting sexual harassment or
assault. But for the two creeps I met
on Hill Street it didn't matter what I
wore because my gender alone was
reason enough to target me.
As I tried to pass the pair on the
sidewalk, the shorter of the two
indoors and are attempted by some-
one the victim knows - suggesting
I'm safer on most streets at night
than I am at a friend of a friend's
Another hazy point is the role of
the cell phone. Many girls I know
will only walk alone at night if
they're on the phone. Leaving the
UGLi or a South University Street
bar, they call a friend to "walk them
home." It's comforting, talking to
someone who knows roughly where
you are and can call the police.
But you might be worse off-sur-
veys of convicted rapists found that
the main bar district when one of
my friends suddenly started flip-
ping out. It seems my friend, a for-
mer college volleyball player and
Hooter's calendar girl, had caught
the attention of a dude on the street,
who upon seeing her thought to
himself, "Hey, I should really grab
this girl's crotch."
So he did. And then my friend
yelled. And then I threatened to
burn the guy's face with my ciga-
Our friends stepped in to pull us
away from each other when my lit
butt was within inches of his eye.
Both groups were panicked. I got
called some awful things. But he
looked scared and I was satisfied. It
turns out fear works both ways.
A minute's worth of retrospect
told me I probably overacted, and
that burning someone's face is
probably illegal. But even though
my friends might have thought oth-
erwise, I didn't regret what hap-
pened. No one is going to sit that
guy down and teach him to respect
women, but maybe he'll be too con-
cerned about keeping his eyebrows
to try a stunt like that again.
Ultimately, though, I know there
has to be a better medium between
complacency and violence in deal-
ing with creeps. Getting in some-
one's face on a crowded street is one
thing. But what if I had taken that
tactic with the men who had me
alone on Hill Street? Would they
have made sure I had a reason to be
Another question: Is it too late to
become a black belt in martial arts?
It might be easier than parsing out
the girls' guide to self-defense.
-Jessica Vosgerchian is magazine
editor for The Michigan Daily
grabbed my arm. people on cell
"Are you scared?" phones seem the
he snarled. A few The girls' guide to easiest victims.
moments later - Those people
when he had been self-defense are distracted,
satisfied that, yes, I and the friends
was scared - he let contradicts itself they're talking to
go of me. might just think
Then I walked the connection
the half a block to
my apartment and burst into tears.
I was angry. What that man
wanted was to reaffirm a deluded
sense of power by reminding some-
one that it wasn't up to her if she
kept walking or stayed put. And I
"Can I help you?" my frightened
doe's eyes seemed to say, my body
turning complacently toward my
captor. "Is there a problem, Sir?"
My impulse to appease rather
than fight left me limp in the clutch-
es of a misogynist. For a long time-
after, I fantasized that I had emp-
tied a can of pepper spray into both
their eyes and called the police.
Temporary blindness, a night in
jail and a scarlet letter on their per-
manent records: A for Asshole.
But that's when the complacency
instinct kicks in. Is fighting back
really worth incurring the wrath
of two full-grown men upon my 125
pounds and a few books? Is it bet-
ter to avoid making trouble in hopes
the situation won't escalate?
Age old questions - ones for
which everyone seems to have
advice but no one can answer defin-
itively. If I know anything about
self-defense strategies it's that they
Many people would say I
shouldn't have been walking alone
at all. But the freedom to walk a few
blocks home after a night of study-
ing is important to me. And any-
way, most sexual assaults happen
died. if the line
suddenly went silent.
My own cell phone security blan-
ket late at night is to dial 9 and 1,
my thumb hovering over that next
1 in case someone jumps out from
behind the North Quad construc-
tion. But then, if I really had a rea-
son to be scared wouldn't those
several seconds it takes to dig my
cell phone out of my bag be better.
The biggest misconception,
hunt at night. As I imagine most 20-
year-old women have come to real-
ize, creepers are creeping morning,
noon and night. I've been followed
through crowded festivals and
home from the mall, alone and with
a group, and all in broad daylight.
Look through the Department of
Public Safety crime alerts - alot of
sexual assaults reported on campus
occurred before sunset.
Although, if you pay attention to
those crime alerts, you'llsee that
the women get away. They do exact-
ly what you're supposed to do: bite,
scream, claw and kick.
It makes me think that there
might only be one universal truth
about self-defense: Nobody likes an
easy victim. Not the men who try to
pull women into cars. Not the guys
who grope their way through clubs.
I put this theory to the test with
an entitled jerk I encountered in
Buffalo, NY this summer. Two girl-
friends and I were walking through
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