If you are forced in any way, it’s not OK
Last week I talked to Will Grandbois, the crime reporter for the Post Independent. He was working on a follow-up story to my Target assault — specifically the fact that my assailant had been caught. Thank you, Glenwood Police Department, Target security team, Post Independent and people of the valley for calling in and positively identifying him, which resulted in his arrest.
Will said that my initial account had struck a chord with people, and asked how I felt about that. I feel that there are a few reasons that it did. First, it was sensational. Sensational as in “dramatic,” not as in “fabulous.” People love drama.
Second, it also had all the elements that play on our common fears: a villain, a victim and potential physical danger. We ruminate on statistics and worst-case scenarios and imagine what could have happened. I know I did. People will love the details of the arrest and to learn that he was a gang member from California, is a suspect in a homicide there and that seven people identified him from the posted surveillance video. That is fairly sensational.
I think there is a third reason the column resonated: It is a common experience among women. I would take the bet that every woman who read it can relate and has her own story. Maybe it wasn’t a parking lot at night, maybe there was no hooded stranger lurking and stalking. Sadly, that is not the story of most incidents involving unwanted sexual contact. Most often, the perpetrator is an acquaintance, a “friend,” a boyfriend, husband or relative. Some of these turn out much worse than mine. Some don’t. None are OK.
Somewhere along the line, women have gotten the notion that if we are not bleeding or if we don’t need a cast, a sedative and a blood transfusion, we are OK. No harm done. We should toughen up and get over it. And sure. If I trip and skin my knee, or if someone accidentally knocks into me in the store, or if I’m just having an emo day and am just sort of whiny, then, yes. I need to pick up, brush off, give myself a hug, do two hours on the treadmill or whatever it is that I need to do to get myself over it. But when I am forced in any way, especially physically, to compromise my truth, I sell out in an existential capacity (meaning to the harm of my own very existence) if I do not fight for myself.
I like this quote. It involves living from the heart — from your heart, all the way. “Don’t like someone. Love someone. Don’t stand up for yourself. Fight for yourself. Don’t be strong. Be indestructible.”
I need to require others to honor my space and to respect my dignity and person, which is precious. At the risk of sounding preachy, so do you. If you can’t see this preciousness, follow me in this small exercise. Close your eyes and picture your favorite baby picture of yourself. What were you wearing? What were you doing? How big was the smile on your face and the sparkle and wonder in your eye? How cute were you? Soooo cute.
Now picture that face, those eyes. Picture that bundle of beautiful, innocent love, being treated how you have allowed people to treat you, or how someone may be treating you right now. Now, fight and stand up like you would for the precious sacred soul of that baby. Because you are that baby. And you still deserve it.
On the villain and victim thing: We are all both of these. To greater and lesser degrees, they are the weights at each end of the equal arm beam scale of our lives. If we can achieve balance, we will be in harmony. If one or the other weight is heavier, what we create in our lives will not serve us, ultimately. My assailant is both the villain and the victim. I am both the villain and the victim. One does not preclude the other, and both play on each other in everyone as we strive to seek balance and harmony in our lives. There is a default setting — the internal balance or imbalance of the scale. It can get pretty stuck one way or the other. But it can definitely be reset, aligned, improved upon. It can be so for my assailant, for me and for everyone.
For him, I wish him luck in his journey to balance. My message is this. Stop hurting people. Stop hurting yourself. For myself, the message is much the same, in many other ways and areas. I can’t get stuck in what happened or what could have happened. I must commit to it never happening again, and to be grateful for the experience and for what can come of it. Part of that, for me, is to commit to giving the women of our valley a Fighting Chance.
I am inspired to organize a multiple-day Fighting Chance seminar on women’s safety and empowerment, led by myself and colleagues and teachers of mine who have inspired me and have professional backgrounds in real world, situational self-defense. I want it to be open and free to women and girls in the Glenwood Springs area, with the purpose of inspiring all ages to commit to keeping themselves safe and giving them the basic tools to do so. We will train in situational awareness, verbal de-escalation, recognition and expression of voice, and an introduction to close-quarter combat and defense techniques.
I am excited about this. I know it will take a lot of work and I will need a lot of help, financially and logistically. I also know that help is out there, and I’m going to ask for it. We have an amazing community, and I believe that our businesses and organizations and residents will really want to help us help ourselves and know they have a vested interest in doing so.
My final dispensation of other people’s prosaic genius is brought to you by Mr. Bob Marley. Sing it, Bob! “Get up, stand up … Stand up for your right. Get up, stand up … Don’t give up the fight.”
Come fight with me. For yourself. Details and dates forthcoming on Facebook at “Fighting Chance GWS.” Anyone who shares my vision and who wishes to contribute can contribute online at indiegogo.com (search Fighting Chance GWS) or to assist with logistics please message me on FaceBook @ Fighting Chance GWS or email email@example.com. Thank you, in advance.
Mari Rose Hale is a Glenwood Springs writer. She blogs at mariroseland.wordpress.com. Semi-Conscious appears on the fourth Tuesday of each month in Body & More.
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