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September 10, 2008 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2008-09-10

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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
let him.
"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.
spent running?
The biggest misconception,
though,isthatsexualpredators only
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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