At 40, I am having to learn how to feel safe around men after a lifetime of cowering and hiding myself.
A lifetime of shrinking myself to fade into the background. A lifetime of second-guessing men and their motives.
I refuse to live in a place of fear anymore. Men have always felt like the enemy.
Battle lines were first drawn when boundary lines were crossed on my childish body, by a man, who should not have come anywhere near my body.
Battle lines grew stronger when a man stopped the school bus on a deserted road and asked me to stay at his house, and told me not to tell anyone.
At 13, when I was followed to school in the early hours of the morning by a man on a bike who would leer at me and offer up obscenities in barren early morning streets, while I waited for the school bus.
At 14, when a man thought it was his right to grab my breast and comment on how they had grown. From the unconsented gropes and grabs at my body.
From men I should have been able to trust. From all the men who thought “no” meant yes.
From the doctor with a bald head and leery eyes who made me strip to a pair of knickers for a basic physical in a room with just him and me.
From the men who worked in a pair attempting to haul me into a car one night while I walked home.
From the men who abused me when I rejected them.
From a lifetime of being careful, watching my back, never quite relaxing on my own.
I have built battle lines to keep myself safe. Battle lines that should not be necessary.
Battle lines that I, as a single mother raising two girls, don’t want to hand down to my daughters, but knowing that you can’t shelter them or protect them without arming them with facts no one should be armed with.
Knowing that you aren’t sending your daughters off into a safe world, that they too will need to watch where they walk, where they go, look over their shoulder, second-guess men, and their motives.
Should I have to get a dog to keep me safe in my own home, should I have to put men’s shoes out the front of my house to make it seem like I am living with a man.
Should I have to do any of it?
No woman should. We should be free to be able to dress however we want, without fear, without a second thought.
We should be able to walk wherever we want, at any time of day, without fear of attack or assault.
Our bodies should be sacred; they should not have to become a battlefield.
We should not have to hand down a list of warnings to our daughters. We should be able to send them off into the world, with innocence intact.