Ladies: Trust your gut!
I don't know about you, but I have a hard time trusting myself sometimes. I am the kind of person who doesn't want to hurt anyone else's feelings, who likes to avoid confrontation. Because of this, I often ignore that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, that feeling that something isn't quite right, for fear that I am making inappropriate assumptions about my situation.
(This trust thing can be applied across all areas, but I'm especially talking about it in relation to men. Unfortunately, most women are raised to be quiet and unassuming. Non-judgemental. Passive. In the time that we live in, with rape on college campuses being a bigger problem than ever before, this attitude just won't cut it. When we feel unsafe, it is okay to do something about it.)
I will think things like "I'm just being paranoid. I have no reason to be scared of him," or "I'm just anxious, there's no real threat here. This is just my anxiety disorder talking."
Are any of you like this?
I'm here to tell you (and me) to start listening to that feeling, because it just might save your life one day.
Here is a (personal) story about (not) trusting my gut:
The man on the Red line
This happened about a year and a half ago, and it still haunts me to this day.
It was 10 am on a Wednesday morning, and I was taking the train home from downtown Chicago. It was winter, so I was bundled up from head to toe. I was sitting on the train, looking out the window when a large homeless man approached me. I immediately got that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, but ignored it. "I shouldn't assume that he's harmful just because he's homeless," I thought.
He asked if he could sit in the empty seat next to me. Even though my gut screamed "NO!" my mouth said yes. Again, I shouldn't assume. He clearly had some sort of mental illness. Who am I to judge based on that?
Well as my trip continued, the situation got more and more uncomfortable. The man sat with his legs wide open, pressed up against mine, as I tried to make myself as small as possible against the window. He told me he was gay, and that he would be my new gay best friend.
He put his hand on my thigh. He hugged me.
I can remember counting down the stops until my own. He left before me, luckily. For the rest of the train ride I sat in silence, stunned. I had been violated. My personal space, my trust, everything.
And all because I ignored that feeling in the pit of my stomach. All because I was afraid of offending this perfect stranger by telling him "no."
I don't blame myself for what happened. It was not my fault that he assaulted me in that way. He was wrong to do so. I was not asking for it by saying he could sit next to me. This kind of thing is never the victim's fault.
BUT, I could have gotten out of the situation before it escalated, had I trusted my gut instinct. I had that power, but I didn't act on it, out of fear.
Ladies, if you feel unsafe, it's okay to do something about it. Stand up for yourself. Be empowered. Let my train ride be a lesson to you to trust yourself. That feeling you get is nature's warning sign.
Listen to it.