Bound and Gagged

Maybe I’m paranoid.

Maybe I read too much into situations. I did grow up on 80’s slasher horror and developed a watchful eye for the bad guys around the corner.

Sure, nobody ever threw a bag over my head and dragged me into a vehicle, so you could argue that those predators are few and far between. However, I never gave anyone the chance.

Every time I step out of my house, I treat it much like a person would if coexisting in a world with velociraptors. It seems extreme, I know. But they’re out there. Maybe not around every corner, but we never really know which corner, do we? I know far more good men than bad ones, but it’s that small percentage of bad ones that make it so damn hard to navigate life without being on alert. I am constantly aware of my surroundings. I have forever watched my back and noticed the stalking eyes of those around me.

Since my teenage years, on too many occasions to number, I’ve evaded people who I believed were following me. I’ve altered my route home, I’ve stayed in a store longer than necessary, I’ve followed close behind stranger families so I would have company in the parking lot. In my twenties, I’ve slipped away from men who came on uncomfortably strong, and was sometimes called a bitch if I didn’t return flirtations. I (in hindsight, likely roofied by that guy who bought me a drink) have crept out a back exit of a club, focused on keeping as alert as possible in my strangely disoriented state, so I could get a cab to take me home safely.

But even when a woman thinks she can handle those savage predators, side-stepping their thousand spears, the sneakier ones creep in unexpectedly—these are more like parasites. The ones who get close and earn your trust. The ones who feed on your sympathies and your fears. The doctor who claims it’s a legit breast exam, or the boyfriend whose jealousy becomes toxic and abusive, or the older man who takes advantage of the teenage girl fresh out of that abusive relationship.

Never called the police, never reported anything. Never really had proof of the person’s bad intentions in most cases. I also feared the repercussions of speaking out. Who would believe me? I’d be one questioned. My reputation on the line.

All these things were just part of life. Normal life for a woman, right? Take control of your actions. If you don’t watch your own back, then you get hunted. So I adapted to my environment and learned some skills that could potentially keep me safe. But why is this normal? Why should I have to reroute my path or change my behavior to avoid the bad guys who need correcting?

And why should I have to pass this bullshit behavior on to my kids? I teach my daughter to check for passengers in the vehicle parked next to ours. I teach her to keep it a secret when she’s home alone. I teach her to stand up even against her closest friends, and I teach her that even the people who we trust the most can disappoint us or hurt us. I teach her all the ways to avoid being a target.

Because that’s what women are to so many: targets. And I’m tired of dodging spears.

My first memory of learning this behavior, I was six years old. Mom told me I had to scream and fight if anyone ever grabbed me. Decades of programming and adaptations so I can survive among my own species. I’m exhausted from being on constant alert.

We cannot continue to be targets for acquirement, or targets for abuse, or targets for whatever messed up ideas some people have in their heads.

I’ve spent my life avoiding being bound and gagged and buried in a ditch. What sucks is that in keeping silent about these things, I’ve kind of been bound and gagged all along.

Maybe I’m paranoid, but at least I’m paranoid and alive. But that kind of thinking isn’t good enough anymore.

I’m declaring an end to your hunting season, bad guys. The targets are wielding the spears now. Watch out.

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