I have written about traveling solo before. The Try Hard Club published a story of mine called 6 Degrees for the Solo Female Traveler. It is about being a female and how to go about traveling alone and staying safe while you do it.
If you read the story, you see that Degree 5 is Confidence. I reiterate that again, in this post. I bring it back up because in my recent travels, I was in a situation that required me to stand up and face a man trying to take advantage of me, head on.
This past September I went to Europe for an international journalism fest called Visa. It was in the quaint little town of Perpignan, France. The fest was a week long with exhibitions, panels, and portfolio reviews. The last day of the fest, they had a end-of-the-week party. It went on late in the night. New friends and I danced until we could dance no more and we went back to their place to hang out some more. After about an hour, I decided to go home. A friend offered to walk me home, but I had walked home every night for a week and felt completely safe. I told him I would be fine and started my walk home.
It was further across town than where I had been walking home from, but not too much. It was later than I had been walking home as well, but here were other young night owls walking about, laughing, and carrying on so I felt fine.
Almost home, I was walking down the block and came to a corner where I would be turning right to cross the street. At the same time, a man was walking down the other block where he would be turning left at the corner. Where the corner met, we literally ran into each other. We both said sorry and kept walking. He caught a glimpse of me and turned around and started talking to me as I was walking. He was drunk and looked like a normal guy, not a bum or vagrant.
“Hey baby, where are you going?” he said in his broken english french accent.
“Somewhere you’re not.”
“Oh come on, your beautiful, let me touch that.”
I scoffed at him and kept waking. He then reaches under my dress and grabs my ass. I stopped, pushed him, and said, “Whoa dude, I don’t think so!” I put a little pep in my step as I walk off. He runs up to me to catch up.
I stopped and looked him in the eye and said, “Don’t follow me, man, back the fuck up.” I turned and started walking forcefully.
“You didn’t like that? Come on I wanna hang out with you” he said, starting to walk with me again as he reached under my dress and grabbed my ass again.
This time I push him hard with both hands and told him to Fuck Off much louder.
“Don’t test me, mother fucker.” I said sternly.
I dart across the street and scan the area for anyone outside. No one…in any direction. I start walking with a lot of pep in my step at this point, walking backwards, so I can keep my eye on him. I chose not to run, because I felt I had a much better chance challenging him face to face. If I would have run and he caught up to me, he would have had the upper hand in strength, having my back to him. I don’t know if this is technically the “correct” thing to do, but in those few seconds, it was. Normally, this is when I would bring out the pocket knife, which I always carry. But the whole week at the fest security was high due to safety from any terrorist attacks and had metal detectors at every event, so I didn’t have it on me.
I am scanning my surroundings, scoping how far I am from my place, (not far, I can see it) who is around (no one), and what I had that could potentially harm him (my keys).
As I am walking backwards, pretty much at a jog, I see him start to jog too. I stopped started yelling at him again, threatening him.
“Don’t come any closer! Stop!… Hey! Fucking stop!”
He didn’t stop, he kept coming.
All I saw was red. I ran in full sprint towards him and tackled him to the ground. Before he could get up, I stood up over him punching him in the face. I then put my foot on his chest and throat standing with all my weight on him.
“Don’t fuck with me mother fucker, I will fucking kill you! You think I’m fucking lying??!”
I had so much rage coming out of me.
He’s coughing and choking trying to catch air.
Still standing on him, I opened my purse, got my keys and put them in between my fingers, kind of like Wolverine (lol) and put them up to his eyes.
“You want your eyes, huh?!” I said through my teeth.
I took my foot off of him and he rolled over catching his breath, gasping for air. I started walking backwards away from him. Once I got a few hundred years away from him, I started jogging and finally running the rest of the way home, which had been in sight the whole time. He just sat there the whole time I walked across the walkway bridge to my place. He never got up.
Whoa.. reflection: All I saw was red. Running was never a thought, just living and not being raped was the only thing going through my brain. I had never felt anything like it. It was strange, because I didn’t feel terrified, I was just in survival mode. I only thing I was thinking were the next steps to getting out of the situation.
I finally got to my place, my adrenaline was rushing. I sat out on my balcony just thought, “Holy shit, what the hell just happened?” Honestly, I felt like I was invincible. I sat there watching the sun come up, smoking a rollie of Amsterdam Shag with this slight smile on my face. Its kind of twisted really… the smile on my face. I had never felt so free. So sure. So… something that I still can’t put in words.
Guaranteed, if I had not embraced my confidence, I would have a different story to tell today. Most predators don’t expect it… shit most people don’t expect it.
And, no, this does not deter me going anywhere else alone or traveling. It gave me more confidence and strength for the future.
If anything, I hope this post encourages women to stand tall even when they are scared… or to take some self-defense classes before traveling alone;)
Dear god, I hope my mama doesn’t see this post.
See you next time,
Photo taken the next day from the bridge I ran across.