Fighting the fear

Madi Olivier

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Emily Lundell
“I’m aware that ninety nine percent of the time I’m overanalyzing everything, but the constant fear of the other one percent makes it impossible to feel any reassurance. This doesn’t make me weak, and neither are the thousands of other girls that go through their days plagued by the same fear.”

My mom lead me through the dark parking lot, gripping tight onto my arm. As we walked, I fumbled with a key, struggling to get it to fit between my fingers. When I succeeded, I made a fist around it, so the key stuck out like I was pointing at something.

I held my hand up to show my mom, feeling a small sense of pride for doing just as she had showed me. Her advice replayed in my five year old mind as we moved through the parking lot. Hold it tight. Be aware. If someone tries to grab you, run, scream, fight back — do anything you can to bring attention to yourself and make them decide you’re not worth it. Stab the key in their throat and get out.

My mother took the key back with a small smile and reassured me that I was holding it correctly. She quickly shifted the key between her fingers in one fluid motion and held it the same way, scanning the dark parking lot.

• • •

I was only five when my parents started teaching me how to protect myself. Young kids are taught how to defend themselves to avoid becoming victims of crimes like sexual assault before they can even understand what it is. They’re taught to be wary of everybody and everything, slowly developing a fear of what the outside world will do to them. This fear can live inside of anybody – there are so many different factors that can make people feel safe, terrified or somewhere in between.

Just being a female has been enough to make this fear stick with me, only growing stronger as I got older.

There’s always the thought in the back of my mind that I could be the next victim. When I’m in certain situations, like walking to my car alone, everything seems to be a threat. A truck with tinted windows means nobody would be able to see me if I was pushed inside, a man standing nearby could be pretending not to notice me so I feel safe, and every corner could be a hiding place.

The line between being helpful and being unsafe also becomes blurred. Attackers have played recordings of a crying baby outside of women’s houses and apartments, grabbing them when they come out to help what they think is a child. Women have been preyed on when pulling over to help someone pretending to need help changing a tire or jump starting a  car. It’s impossible for me to tell if I would be helping somebody in need or putting myself in danger.

What makes everything worse is that through the eyes of an attacker, I’m fully aware that I’m an easy target. My thin, five foot frame wouldn’t be much of a challenge for anybody determined to cause harm. If I ever find myself in that situation, I can only hope that if I yell loud enough or fight back hard enough, the attacker will decide I’m not worth it.

Eventually, the fear makes it seem as though it’s no longer a matter of if something happens, but when. I know that I live in a safe area. The most recent statistics show that in Flower Mound, there were nine rapes and 31 assaults in a year.

Although nowhere near all incidences of these types of crime are reported, this is still much lower than other cities. I’m aware that ninety nine percent of the time I’m overanalyzing everything, but the constant fear of the other one percent makes it impossible to feel any reassurance. This doesn’t make me weak, and neither are the thousands of other girls that go through their days plagued by the same fear.

Every day, we’re reminded that no matter what we do, we will never be fully safe. But we keep going – that’s strength. As a society, there are so many things we need to fix, starting with the small proportion of the population that’s making us have this fear.

Until then, however, we can’t let these few bad people steal a part of our lives and our joy. If we come together as strong individuals and support one another through it, we can form an unbreakable force to fight this fear.

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