Saturday, August 8, 2020

May 2008 Revisited / Ten Years Later in November / Standing Our Ground in August 2020 (Not Alone)

Although summer in this far northwestern corner of Washington State is mild, we had a few days of temperatures in the 80s.  I don't walk as much when it is hot or even warm and had not taken a walk for a week or so.  On August 3 at noon, I decided to take a short walk from my home to Whatcom Falls Park.   Even though the section of trail that fills with mosquitos in June has been free of mosquitos for almost a month, I haven't walked into Whatcom Falls Park since May, choosing to walk up the hill to the high point where I can look out at the Canadian Cascades in British Columbia and be free of mosquitos.  Here are the photos I took on my way into Whatcom Falls Park:


Here is what I photographed as I was getting close to home again:

Just beyond this dappled section of the trail is the cattail pond that my porch looks out on.  Most of my walk, except for that section, is in the shade.  Probably because it was midday and somewhat warm, I saw few people during my walk.  When I was a little more than halfway along the section of brightly sunlit trail that is visible from my porch, I became aware of a man's voice at some distance behind me, but he was close enough that if I had turned around, I would have seen him because the section of trail beside Scudder Pond is straight.  Within seconds as the voice drew closer, I realized that he was yelling as loud as he could.  He was angry.  I could hear in his voice what I have heard in the voices of men who attack women.  I have been attacked when I have heard that kind of voice before.  At first I couldn't hear what he was saying but as he approached I heard his clearly shouted angry stream of obscenities and threats that seemed to be directed at me but were clearly directed at all women in an attempt to terrorize.

I felt the fear that I have felt before.  Then, something within me that I have learned to trust told me to keep walking, not to turn around, not to register in any way that I heard him.  I thought of John Lewis.  I thought of all the women and men who have had to face this kind of fear and had to learn how to respond in the moment.  It occurred to me that I might be assaulted or even killed by this anonymous man filled with rage against women.  As the yelling came to within 10 feet of me, I was thinking of John Lewis and everyone who has ever stood their ground.  In this instance, continuing to walk in dignity, not showing fear, I was "standing my ground."  I kept walking, wondering what was going to happen next.

In a silent instant, a nondescript white man, neither young nor old, neither large nor small, wearing a neon green bike helmet and generic clothing, riding what I would guess to be a mountain bike that cost him some good money, rode past me at a high speed, turned to the right just ahead of where I was walking, and disappeared on a short path that leads to a busy street.  Can you imagine my relief despite the fact that I was deeply shaken?

As I tried to absorb what had happened, I knew that I needed to call the police and make a report. Within a few minutes I was able to speak with the woman who answered my 911 call and took down my story and said that a police officer would be calling me.  Within a few minutes, I was talking on my phone with a sympathetic young male policer officer, telling him what had happened and answering his questions.  The police officer said that he was sorry that I had that experience.  He said that he had never heard of anything like that happening before.  I said, "I am reporting this because the man on the bicycle will do that again when he gets the chance, and I want there to be a record in place when that happens."

This happened in the middle of the day on a popular public trail in full view of the condominiums where I live.  I can only wonder what else this man has gotten away with when there were no witnesses, where the woman he threatened was afraid to make a report.  I can't be sure, but I sensed that both the 911 dispatch woman and the police officer wondered if I had made the whole thing up. Who wouldn't question my story that I was able to keep walking the way I did?

I am grateful to the many women and men who have been in the position I was in and who stood their ground and whose stories encouraged me to stand my ground.  Standing one's ground is not without risk.  Something told me to take that risk.  John Lewis was brutally beaten for taking that risk.  He continued to risk standing his ground.  He was not alone.


37paddington said...

That sounds terrifying. I’m so glad you’re ok. I hate that women have to worry about the violence of men when we’re just walking through this world. What is it about how men are socialized??

Anonymous said...

Angels protected you. I am glad you listened to the still small voice that guided you. I am thankful that you came through unscathed. You are braver than you knew.

I keep my phone handy since the day a neighbor's mother charged at me, swearing and cursing. She's from another country that believes in voodoo, so she put a curse on me. She did so at the top of her voice while advancing and shaking her fists. I simply stood my ground and turned my back on her. Another neighbor told her to shut up, and she did, turned and went back inside her daughter's home.

Should you carry mace on your next walk?

Be well.

Anonymous said...

What a horrible and scary experience, am. I don't know how you maintained such a cool and calm composure, and it is remarkable that you did. I will always be mystified by those beings on earth who think only of themselves... their rage, their contempt, their discontent and don't give a damn about anyone else... and even worse pour their inner crap out wherever it may go and on to whomever it may reach. You are strong and you have good strong heroes to emulate.

Sabine said...

It makes me so mad to read about this awful experience. I am relieved to read that you got through this ok-ish.

I was 19 when I got involved in claim back the night events and organising rape crisis call centers and we felt so confident that our work would bring about change.
Later, when my daughter was starting secondary school, she and her friends went to a self defense class for girls and I explained to her how to hold the house keys inside your fist as a weapon. Then, mobile phones came to the rescue and we instructed her to pretend she was talking to us when a man got off at her bus stop with her walking behind her for the 400 m to our doorstep. Nothing has changed. It's the proverbial well we keep on drilling for water every season anew.

dritanje said...

Thank goodness you were able to stand your ground and not run. I believe that they pick up on fear. If you run it can be like confirming the mad scenario they're running in their mind. Good you reported it because yes, it could happen again. Thankful you are ok.

Sackerson said...

Terrifying. You were dead right to report it. It sounds like the perpetrator probably does just enough to terrorise people and -so he thinks-not enough to drive his victims to report him. The police should look into these things (a) because they jolly well should and (b) because someone who yells randomly at women in 2020 might randomly assault them in 2021. Zero tolerance.

On a lighter note... I like your walking video. I was just thinking of going out to do something similar! A case of "blog synchronicity"?