Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Who needs reflection and contemplation when jumping to fast conclusions and rash action is waaaaaay more fun? I mean, really. I'm not saying that I'm not upset by having a crazy ex-wife invade my privacy and feeling of safety for myself and Zac, I'm just saying that I feel more centered about it now. I see the changes that I made as part of a larger life decision to live more cautiously and not open myself and my family up to the possibility of violence, as much as I had been.

I was given a book by the Director of Victim Services at my organization called, "The Gift of Fear," by Gavin de Becker. The basic premise is that we all hold the most powerful tool to recognize, react, and respond to danger: our intuition. His book tries to give his readers the confidence to listen to their intuition, gut feelings, premonitions, or whatever else you want to call it. de Becker reasons that it's all the same thing. It's your subconciousness that tells your consciousness, "Listen to me and we have a chance of getting out of this situation. Ignore me and we might be ok, it might turn out to be just fine, but I'm sending out warning flags that maybe it won't be."

There is a story early on in the book that shook me. A woman named Kelly was coming home from the grocery store when her bag split, causing her groceries to roll down the stairs of her apartment building. A man picked up her fallen cans and told her that he would help carry the groceries the rest of the way. Kelly couldn't understand at the time, but something told her that it wasn't right for the man to be in the stairway of her apartment. He seemed like a nice, middle-class, friendly guy, though. He asked to take the bag of groceries so she could open the door to ther apartment. She was now actively worried, but thought that the man was just trying to be a good samaritan, and he chided her about letting her "pride and vanity" rule her life, by not accepting his offer for help.

He raped her for three hours inside her apartment.

After he was finished, he got up, got dressed, closed her bedroom window, and told her that he was going to leave if she laid still. He left the room and she could hear him moving around the kitchen. She knew that she was going to die if she stayed in her bedroom. She ran out her front door and into a neighbor's apartment. She couldn't explain how she knew that he was going to kill her. She said, "It was just a feeling".

De Becker argues that it was more than that. Why would the rapist need to close the window after the attack if he was really going to let her live? Why would he be looking for something in the kitchen if he was planning on leaving? He says that Kelly recognized that there was a disconnect between his words and his actions. Leaving the situation immediately saved her life because she listened.

It's hard for me to look back on my dating (mis)adventures and not see how I fit into this pattern. I've let manipulators tell me that I should trust them, when they haven't earned the trust. I've gone out with men that I didn't feel good about because I couldn't think of a good enough reason why I should tell them no. I've even continued a date that I wanted to end because I believed someone when they told me that they wouldn't say or do a behavior that offended me (or made me worry, or gave me a bad feeling, or made me want to jump out of a speeding car at 60 mph).

There are so many times, not even recently, but throughout my life, that I've said yes when I wanted to say no. My reasons are ridiculous. They're something along the lines of: "I don't want to be called/thought of as a bitch. I am being paranoid. Nothing is wrong. I need to open up and learn to trust people more. I'll just do it this once and then tell him no next time. She's a friend and she needs me, I should do this for her, even though it makes me uncomfortable. If you tell her no now, she'll never invite you again to hang out with her."

All the things I tell myself to minimize (if not diminish and demolish) my internal warning system. Identifying as a woman does affect me as well. I can't let fear rule my life and my decisions, but I need to get my head out my ass. The leading cause of death for women at their place of work is homicide. Each year, more women are admitted to the emergency room for attacks by someone they know than rapes, muggings, and car accidents - combined.

So, it's not just about the crazy ex-wife, it's about me learning how to listen to what I'm saying.


Anonymous said...

wow... i really connect with that post... i was out for a run this weekend and got caught in the rain. a stranger pulled up along side of me in a van and offered a ride.. i immediately ran in the other direction.. he called out "sorry" as i ran off...

i felt slimed for so long.

Anonymous said...

that was from austin carolyn by the way.

Melanie Marie said...

Wow, I never thought of it that way. Thank you for sharing.

FR said...

i definitely agree that intuition is an important tool many of us - especially women - learn to ignore for the sake of being "nice." i can't even tell you how many times i've put myself in not-so-great situations, or not spoken up just because i didn't want to "seem mean."

i was introduced to this same book during my orientation here at the school of social work. we were warned to listen to "those little hairs on the back of our necks" as social workers who might be sometimes in unfamiliar or risky situations as a part of our work.

i was pretty horrified.

why? because the implications of telling a room full of mostly young white women working in detroit for the first time to uncritically listen to their intution, is bascially racist. aren't people who clutch their handbags in fear, listening to their "intuition" as they walk by a black man on the street? isn't it "intuition" to lock your doors as you drive through a poverty-striken (under-resourced) neighborhood? never mind the stigma around working with so-called "crazy" people diagnosed with mental illnesses, or those arab-folks on airplanes who seem "suspicious."

sometimes "intuition" is just a cover, a tool of the oppressor to lock people up.

i've struggled a lot through my life trying to find the balance between trusting my gut to preserve my safety and unlearning my own bigotry. it still takes work, and the lines are never clear in my own experience.

that being said, trusting your intution on a date when you've got a child to raise is a whole other level of learning. i definitely support you listening to and trusting yourself more, and examining from where your feelings are coming.

much love, NSP.

Pregnant In Texas said...

I hear you FR and I thought about that when I wrote the post. I'm going to think about what you wrote more and delve further into in some other posts. I completely agree with you that there has to be some boundary between safety and racism/bigotry/homophobia/