The fear of sexual assault

I’m terrified of sexual assault. I don’t want myself or anyone else in this world to go through it. Although I know people of all ages, genders and (skin) colours may undergo sexual assault, I speak of my experiences and perspectives as a 22 year old woman of colour.

I am terrified of sexual assault. I’m terrified of being followed home at night, being watched from my bedroom window or being ogled at. I’m terrified at the thought of a man touching me without my consent, of him raping me or harming me in any manner. I speak of men here because I have only experienced such things at the hands of men. I’m very, very scared of being approached by a strange man on the subway, or when a man I don’t know smiles at me (although it may be innocent, I have trouble trusting this).

I’m moving to a new place soon. It’s sort of a low-income area. The buildings don’t look like what I am used to, and the streets are open and quiet. Sometimes, I think they’re too quiet, or that they could be. And I’m afraid. I’m terrified about what if I come home after dark, and am followed home, taken advantage of or raped. The past couple of days this sexual assault-related anxiety has been running through my brain and I have not felt safe for a single moment. I’m afraid of the horrors the night will bring, I don’t want to leave home unless I absolutely have to, and I’ve been laying in bed tonight replaying every single time I’ve felt that my physical and sexual safety have been threatened.

And there have been many times. The man staring at me with rage in his eyes on a bus, the man on the subway who kept saying he wants to talk to me, the man who stared unwaveringly at me in the metro, the man who swerved on his scooter just to unnerve me. I was probably under 18 for many such incidents.

There’s probably more that I don’t remember or have suppressed. Nearly every woman I know has felt threatened at some point in her life. For many of us, we feel constantly threatened. Never safe. I feel threatened right now, I don’t feel safe. And I don’t know what to do about it. I am afraid of not feeling safe in my own bed at my new place. I am afraid of being touched inappropriately in the middle of the night when I get home from someplace. I am afraid of someone keeping track of my every movement, my schedule and my comings/goings so he can find the right time to strike.

I keep playing this image of myself over and over in my head: It’s the middle of the night. Not too late, possibly 22:00h and I return home from university. I’m trying to park my bike on the street outside my apartment but I’m fumbling with my keys. I’m already afraid but I hear a noise. I’m shaking at this point. I just want to make it home without incident. And maybe I do, maybe I don’t, I don’t know. The visualisation always ends there. But I can’t live every day of my life being afraid of this. I can’t be trembling every single time I have to park my bike in the dark.

I’m so fucking terrified. And I am so fucking scared of moving to my new place. I don’t feel safe. I’m constantly on edge, as if someone is watching me, plotting and preparing. I don’t know what to do with this feeling

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