You know those ‘Safety Tips for Women’ articles that are always being passed around? Warning women not to wear ponytails or balance their chequebooks while sitting in their cars in parking lots? When the situation happens to you, will you remember these rules? I had a chance to find out last night.
It started on a busy tube platform around 10:15 last night. As I glanced up from an advert I was reading, whilst standing on the tube platform, a young man with his hoodie pulled up, gave me a look that said, ‘Get out of my way, now’. I jumped out of his way and then said to myself, ‘Why did you do that? You had just as much right to be there as he did.’ I then reckoned that he was not the right person to make a scene with but, rather, someone you just let pass; it wasn’t worth the hassle. Little did I know at that moment, but in ten minutes time, it would only be because I did assert myself, that I prevented being his victim. I also used some other ‘tips’ (as if I were making cupcakes) during this encounter. You will see them in bold.
I only had to go one stop. As I exited the tube at my little sleepy station, I was the only one to step out on the platform. As I started walking towards the Way Out, I did what any city girl would do, when alone on a subway platform, I looked around to see if anyone was behind me. As a woman, alone, you need to be aware of your surroundings. As I looked me behind I realized the news wasn’t good. The only other person who had gotten off the train was the guy from the last station. I saw he had gotten out of the last carriage and I was much closer to the exit sign. As he quickly started advancing, his hoodie
covering his face, I did the next thing that might have saved me. I followed my gut instinct and started running.
I always try to look at people as people, and not judge or stereotype them. As a white, middle-class women, the thought actually went through my head that I was being unfair to him. Just because a young, black man in a hoodie happened to get off at the same stop as me, doesn’t mean he is going to attack me. But then I thought, FUCK POLITENESS! I wonder how many women have gotten themselves into trouble because they didn’t want to hurt their attackers feelings?
To get from the train platform to the exit, one must take a lift. My station has two lifts, which sit side by side. As I turned the corner, running towards them, I prayed that one was there waiting for me. Success! One was open. I hopped in, pushed the close button and again prayed that I had either been wrong about him and that he just happened to be getting off at that stop too, or that the doors would hurry up and close! Just as they were about to close, he rushed over, sticking his arm in the door to stop it from closing. And, because he was slightly out of breath, I knew that he had run to catch up with me, and that my instincts hadn’t been wrong. Therefore, I knew that no matter what happened, I would not be stuck in that lift with him.
I got out of the lift, passing him as we looked at each other, and entered the lift next to it, which also had its doors open. Just as it was about to close, he again stuck his arm in the door, to stop it from closing. This next move is, probably, what changed my fate. As I stood in front of the door, hindering his access into the lift, I looked him in the eyes and said, ‘What?!!’. I confronted him face on. Luckily, he turned around, the doors closed, and I made my way up, unharmed. After I stopped shaking, I realized that until the point that I had confronted him, in his eyes, I had been playing passively (not that I would have done any of that differently) I jumped out of his path at the previous tube station. I ran from him and I changed lifts. For all of the people who think you shouldn’t be assertive/aggressive for the fear of antagonizing your attacker, you are wrong. These men are wimps. They are looking for an easy victim. Although my ‘confrontation’ consisted of looking him in the eyes and saying, ‘What?!!’ when he turned away, I saw his thoughts and read his body language. He never said a word, but he was thinking, ‘It’s not worth it. This one is not going to be an easy victim.’ And that is why I was not attacked last night. I hope you are never in this situation but, if you are, I hope my experience will keep you safe too.