I went for a run today.
I clutched my keys in my hand and put one key between each finger. My version of brass knuckles. Just in case.
I rarely run with a phone, I rarely listen to music or wear head phones. Not for the sake of being aware of my surroundings if someone were to attack me, but for my mental clarity and tenacity, or some stupid shit like that.
I am inherently vulnerable when going for a run. I am a woman. Exhausting myself. Sometimes being a woman is exhausting. You know why? Because when you're a woman, you don't just have to be hypervigilant when you run. As a woman, you have to be aware of yourself 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whether you are walking your dog, or going to the grocery store. Whether you are heading home from work, or putting your keys in your door.
Most of the instances in which I have been followed, assaulted, creeped on, mistreated, hunted, abused, have occurred outside of running. Ha. What a thing to say that all of us can say: "Most of the instances..." And let's be honest, these occurrences have happened since I was a girl, not just as a grown up woman. Another thing I would assume all of us can say.
I think part of what is so enraging about a woman, Eliza Fletcher, being kidnapped and murdered while running, is that so many of us run to feel empowered, to feel strong mentally, physically, and emotionally; to escape, to feel joy and freedom, safety and security in who we are. And when one of us gets murdered while seeking those things, it is a brutal awakening that there is no escape. There is no time out from being vulnerable in a society that generally hates women.
This is not a runner problem. This isn't even a woman problem. This is a human problem. We live in a world that normalizes assaulting women at the highest level. We live in a world that brutalizes women across cultures and continents. We live in a world in which the most consistent characteristic in mass shootings is the shooter's hatred of women. We live in a world in where so many men have an unconscious, and even conscious, rage towards women and we tolerate it. And women continue to be assaulted and kidnapped and sold and killed...every. single. day.
And sometimes when these awful things happen, misguided people attempt to find the reason "why" this happens by placing the blame on the person who was hurt, killed, assaulted. These people are looking for some way that they can feel in control of themselves, as if they have some sort of free will in the matter, as if they could avoid this happening to them. And the reality is, that we can all make lots of small decisions to do our best to stay safe, and we certainly have to do all those things. We cannot operate recklessly. But the other part is that there is no "safe" time to go for a run, or go to the store, or walk the dog. There is no "safe" outfit to wear to live your life. The danger for us, is that we are women. At the end of the day, if somebody wants to throw you in the back of their truck badly enough, there is very little you can do to get out of that situation.
What I will say in terms of safety after working in the prison system for 6 years and reading commitment offense after commitment offense, and the stories of inmates' crimes in great detail, is that while there are "opportunist" crimes, these are not often kidnapping (whether or not resulting in murder), sexual violence, or assaults against women. These types of offense are often planned. People who commit these crimes are aware of your activity, they know your patterns, when you leave, where you go, how long you're gone, who you are with, when you are alone. The best thing you can do for yourself in terms of safety is to be unpredictable. Run different routes, and different times, from different places.
So I went for a run today.
With my keys in between my fingers like brass knuckles.
With a scowl on my face, holding my anger in my stare.
And as I was rage running, still making eye contact with every person, a man coming towards me puts his arm out. My first thought was, "What's this guy doing, trying to fucking clothesline me!?" Then I looked in his eyes, and my gaze softened. It was kindness, I saw. I was once again vulnerable, but only when my defensiveness dropped was I able to receive a high five from this dude. And it was nice. And I was reminded that not everyone is a fucking scumbag.