I Was Taught Rape Prevention in Health Class

I read a twitter feed today from a man who said a random woman just walked up to him and gave him a hug while whispering in his ear that three men were following her and she needed help. The man goes on to tell the story of how he walked her 3 blocks to her place from the subway and met her family and called to check in on her the next day to make sure she was ok. And while it was a nice heartwarming story, it kind of pissed me off. Not because he helped, but because, we (women) even have to feel unsafe while we are out alone.

I’ve been lucky in my 44 years to have never been a victim of rape or even attempted rape. But statistically, 1 in 6 women have not been so lucky. I don’t know what rapists look for when they are out on the prowl. I always imagined they just look for the most easily accessible vagina. I don’t run into too many admitted rapists in my travels and I’ve not done much research into it so maybe I will never know. And I guess I’m OK with that.

I remember, though, in high school, I had a health teacher who had to give us the “talk” about sex and how to put a condom on a banana. And I distinctly remember her giving a talk to the girls. She said always walk with your head up and your eyes open. Keep an eye on your surroundings. Notice who is behind you. Keep your purse in front of you or over your shoulder. Don’t wear anything that can easily be grabbed. Keep your hair pulled back so you can see everything. And always always always look at every single face that you pass. She insisted that if you looked a man in the eyes, took in what he looked like, the color of his eyes, what he was wearing, paid attention to the way he smelled. Anything and everything you could think of to notice, you lowered your chances of being raped or abducted or raised your chances of identifying your attacker if you were.

I don’t know why she spent so much time that day drilling it into our heads. And I don’t know why women have so many “rules to avoid rape” when men could just stop raping us. That should be the golden rule. I mean treating people the way you want to be treated is great, but maybe if we just taught boys from a really young age, “Don’t rape people” we’d have less to worry about.  That one day in class is in the top 5 of my “most useful lessons I learned in school.” I use pretty much every bit of that advice today. I always wear my purse over my shoulder and toward the front. I look at everyone. I usually say hi, too, just so they know I saw them. I rarely look at my phone if I am walking alone. I keep my eye on my surroundings. I can usually tell you what a person is wearing from head to toe in a split second. I don’t know if I would call it paranoia or if I just really want to be able to identify my rapist if it happens because statistically, it could at any moment.

I hope health teachers are routinely teaching girls about being aware of their surroundings but I think this particular teacher just had first hand experience and didn’t want us to have that experience. I know that there is absolutely nothing you can do to deter a man or men who have already decided that rape is on the menu for the night, but I do think that those little tips that my very knowing female health teacher gave me in ninth grade have gone a long way to ensure my safety over the years.

I do fear for women who run up to perfect strangers to find safety. I’m glad it worked out in that situation. And many other women have claimed they needed to do the same thing at one time or another and it, too, has turned out safely for them. So I hope men continue to protect women who find themselves in questionable situations and I hope women continue to band together to protect each other out in public spaces.

It sad that we even need to worry about riding a bus alone, or a subway, or even going out for a jog after dark. But I guess those are the times we live in. Maybe one day, people will just be better. But until then, ladies, stay safe out there and keep your eyes open! And men, stop raping women!

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