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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

From Helpless to Lethal... Eventually

I spent part of last summer in school in Germany, as well as traveling around other parts of Europe and North Africa. As a lone woman traveler, I was always aware of my surroundings and always concerned about falling into a dangerous situation. However, one night in the beginning of my stay in Germany, I was caught completely off-guard.

I spent the night having a few drinks at a pub with other LMU study-abroad students. By the time we all left, the metro was closed and I had heard awful stories about the night buses. When a taxi pulled up and asked me if I wanted a ride, and I agreed and got in the front seat. As he drove, we made small talk.

I did not speak a word of German. When the driver asked why I was visiting, I explained that I was an American student, studying abroad, etc. I started feeling uncomfortable when he asked if I had a boyfriend. Without thinking, I said no. I also told him there was no husband when he asked. Things continued downhill when he asked me if anyone knew I was out and was expecting me home. I lied and said I was late coming home and my host family was up waiting for me.

I began calling the number of a close friend of mine repeatedly, desperate to let someone know where I was. He didn’t answer. The cab driver pulled over and asked a man for directions, and then turned down a different street than the man had indicated. I told him he was going the wrong way and he turned around. I made sure I appeared calm, but I was close to becoming hysterical. I heard and felt my heart pound as my body temperature rose, my muscles tensed up, adrenaline flowed and time seemed to slow down. I tried to stay composed and consider my options. As I continued with the conversation, I dug into my purse and started lacing keys in between my fingers. All I could think was, I refuse to be a victim. But my German language skills consisted of being able to count to 20, I was in a car with a stranger with no idea of where we were, no one was around and it was past 2:00 a.m. I was screwed.

Finally, I recognized where we were and told him to stop the car. As I thanked him, he unbuckled his seat belt and leaned over to kiss me. I turned my head and felt pressure all over my body as our cheeks brushed against each other. He tried and failed again. He then pulled back and asked, “No sex?” to which I replied, “No… But I can give you 10 Euros.” Frustrated, he complained, “I gave you ride. You give me sex.” When I refused again and offered him money, he said, “No. Just get out.” I got out of the car and walked behind a wall in an area only open to pedestrians where he could not see me. The car did not move for about 20 seconds. Then he drove off. I sprinted the half mile to get home and burst into tears as soon as I got into my room.

I consider myself to be a strong and independent person. As a result, one of the most repulsive, uncomfortable feelings for me is feeling helplessness. There are few clearer reminders of how thin and young our deceptively pleasant appearance of civilization is than being assaulted. In an instant our comfort and confidence are gone and we retreat to our fight or flight instincts where might and muscle mass reign. Being in a situation where my safety is completely out of my control infuriates me.

Almost all women have encountered an experience, if not several, in which they felt in danger of an assault. They are familiar with the feeling of sheer terror when your mind says, I am about to be attacked and no matter how hard I fight, I will be lucky to survive. It is for this reason that I consider the importance of knowing a degree of self-defense. We are in constant peril and should be equipped with an idea of how to handle such a situation, as it is entirely too likely that it will present itself.

When I heard one of my professors gives free Judo martial arts lessons, I jumped at the opportunity. I began the lessons about 6 weeks ago and absolutely love it. Our teacher, or “Sensei,” as we call him at the lessons, has told us stories of small women trained in Judo defending themselves against male attackers. Some say there comes a point in the training in which women laugh at the idea of someone attempting to assault them. I cannot wait for this point. I know it will not come anytime soon, but the hope of attaining that security helps to compensate for my anger and occasional feeling of helplessness.

-Colleen Bouey


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