Posted by: Bruce | February 22, 2014

She didn’t mean to worry me.

But I worried anyway. And the thing is, she doesn’t know me.

You see, I passed this young lady when driving to my mum’s place tonight. It was around 8.15 pm and she was walking at the side of the road with her back to the traffic.

I only glimpsed her for a few seconds but that was long enough to see that she is a she and wearing something like a work uniform. She could be 18 to 28.

Traffic was light and the road she walked was gloomy on her side with trees and railway to her left. It’s a highway with lighting but gloomy all the same. The area is industrial and ahead of her was nothing in terms of people. A station was about 2 or 3 klm’s away and empty of people.

I tried to figure out where she was going; there were no houses. I couldn’t see a bus stop and if there was one, it was deserted. I was already feeling unsettled but now I worried. I was also unfairly cranky with her because she was in a situation that I didn’t like.

I wanted to stop, turn around and go back. I wanted to ask did she need a lift, was she stranded, did she feel safe? Was someone coming to pick her up, her dad or boyfriend or brother?

But of course I can’t do that and didn’t. I wondered if she had any emergency stuff like police on speed dial, an air horn screecher or some kind of pepper spray.

If she did it would have worked on someone like me. On one or two bad guys who stopped and snatched her in the gloom, it would have been pretty useless.

I hope she got home safe and sound tonight, tucked up in her bed. Tomorrow I hope to hear nothing in the news. Then I’ll be right till next time.

She should be able to walk when and where she likes, but she is so vulnerable.

Word for today:        Worry  ………. An unsettling state of mind

More to come:     Same blog time, same blog channel

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Responses

  1. And in that moment, you felt what it was to be female in the world.

    Nowhere is really safe, you know?

    I remember being 18 years old, having just moved to Sydney to start my first job. At the end of that first day, I got off the train at the station and stepped into a taxi, giving the driver the address of my new house.

    I spent the entire trip panicking that he would get lost and I would have no idea how to direct him. He kept telling me I was pretty.

    The house was on a big and somewhat busy street, and I had memorised some telling features – there was a sign tacked to the tree out the front that we would be able to see on our way there.

    He told me my beautiful picture should be attached to the tree, not a silly old sign.

    “There it is!” I shouted with relief, as I saw it coming up.
    “No it isn’t”, the driver replied, making no move to slow down.
    “What? Yes it is! That’s it there, pull into the driveway please”
    “I’ve lived here my whole life, that’s not it!” he said, anger dripping through an accent that made it clear he hadn’t quite lived here his whole life.
    “That was the sign!” I shouted in panic, craning my neck to watch the house disappear behind me.

    We were two blocks beyond it.

    He pulled up at an intersection.

    “Let me out!” I shouted.
    “We aren’t there yet”, he replied.

    I opened the door, threw money on the seat and started to run back the way I came.

    Living where I did made me hate men, and fear any that I didn’t know. Over the years that followed, I was twice harrassed on the roadside by men who had followed me in their car, threatening to drag me in.

    I was only saved because other good men, such as yourself, heard my screams and came out to help me.

    I live back in my old country town now, but even here, women are still warned against walking alone at night.

    I guess like I said at the beginning, nowhere is safe, for women, and as women, we spend a large portion of our lives moving from one place to another, filled with fear that makes our heart race at the sound of a slowing down vehicle, or a pair of feet walking behind us. We worry when someone crosses the road to be on our side. We have to take precautionary measures that men don’t have to, simply to ensure we’ve done all we can to keep ourselves ‘safe’, without ever actually feeling that way.

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    • It’s sad that this is how it is. It shouldn’t be, but there will always be mongrels out there to keep the danger alive. What area in Sydney was it? Hopefully it’s a little safer now.
      Guys have their own precautions to take but as you say females, young and old, have an added dimension of worry.
      Thanks for saying it so well Bri, even if the story is a little scary.

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      • Guys definitely have their own set of precautions to take, particularly now with so many king hits happening.
        How do you prepare for/prevent that from occurring?

        In general, people are just getting less and less human, it feels.

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      • I don’t know how you prevent a mongrel from sucker punching anyone. You can’t keep metres away from people all the time and don’t have eyes in the back of your head.

        The people who do this are violent empty heads. I don’t think the concept of cowardice comes into their thoughts; just hurting people for a laugh.

        Still, a woman’s lot is the same but with added danger simply because she is female.

        And there does seem to be more fruitcakes out there than ever before.

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      • I think there’s just this new breed of person emerging…

        Nothing of consequence exists in their actual, physical world – they are raised by parents who either ignore their behaviour out of neglect, or indulge it out of this fear of upsetting their child.

        There are no consequences at school, and they get awards purely for participating – for showing up – for existing.

        Consequently, their sense of entitlement is skewed from the get-go. They deserve *everything* for doing absolutely nothing. And they don’t have to deal with consequences for a single one of their actions.

        Then we have Facebook and Instagram and this whole “selfie” phenomena that has very little to do with one’s feelings about oneself, and everything to do with the instant ego-boost one can obtain purely by taking a picture of themselves and then obsessively checking how many likes and comments it’s received from friends – and strangers, alike. We’re literally breeding a generation of clinical narcissists.

        The teenage years are nothing more than mob-rules. If they don’t all conform to this lifestyle, they are ridiculed and bullied, and with the saturation of social media, unlike in my day, the bullying follows the kids home – there is no escape.

        I used to get phonecalls from my bullies but they had to get through my parents, first as the only technology we had was a landline (none of my friends yet had the internet, so the internet was actually my safe haven).

        Now, kids have access to each other 24/7, with the added bonus of the torture being visible to everyone who can see the victim’s facebook wall – the only people who ever witnessed me being bullied at home were my family who could hear me crying into the phone – not all of my peers who I felt pressured to add in the first place, lest I offend someone and start a social war at school…

        So kids have to conform, or else – that hasn’t changed, it’s just become more invasive, and with the added narcissism we are literally raising our children into, we are facing a generation of kids with legitimate mental illness as part of their personality.

        If that’s not bad enough, our boys are just as pressured as our girls to live up to some glossy, Hollywood ideal of physical perfection.

        To achieve this end, so many of them are using steroids.

        The weekend arrives, these just-turned-18 kids get together to have pre-drinks, and by the time they get to the pub (around 11pm/midnight) they’re already drunk. There, they either buy booze mixed with energy drinks to keep them awake, or they buy amphetamines – which are just as easy to procure as their steroids – and, at $20 – $30 a pop for 4 – 6 hours of fun, are far better value for money than drinking.

        But that cocktail on top of their personalities is lethal – and usually not for them, but for someone else.

        The alcohol itself isn’t the problem. The alcohol is just the chemical that takes away the final barrier of reasoning that that individual had left.

        Without all of these factors in place – the upbringing, the social media narcissism, the incredible pressures to conform in so many different ways, and the availability of brain-altering chemicals, we’d not be seeing such a prevalence of senseless and remorseless violence as we are now.

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      • I think you’re right.

        I see some of this stuff happening with my kids and/or their friends. Pre-internet and mobile phone days seem almost a hundred years ago. Change has been rapid.

        My daughter walks around with a pocketful of friends at her fingertips. They are there except for the sleeping hours. I worry at the state of independence; does it exist as much anymore?

        I’m sorry you were bullied. It must really suck. Lucky for me it never really happened.

        I saw first hand on F/Book my daughter being cyber-bullied a few years ago. Peer pressure is a strange thing and so easy on F/book or sites like that. I’m glad I went on F/book some years ago to see what my kids were open to. It doesn’t usually occur to the kids to stay off or delete their a/c. Pretty interesting to say the least, despite the fact I think F/book can be a pretty good thing.

        I think that this change represents the new gauntlet that has to be run during the teenage years; before starting to reason a few things out.

        Hopefully in the not too distant future, it’s a bit more settled and predictable. Luckily, we still have plenty of our gauntlet runners coming out on the right side because most of them are good ones.

        Such a comprehensive comment; a post on its own Bri and I pretty much agree with everything you say. Somewhere in your blog have you posted on your bullying?

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      • I am quite terrified for the future we are leaving to our kids, with the amount of pressure they’re under.

        I graduated year 12 in the year 2000 – not really that long ago – but the drastic change in what is expected of students from school as well as peers is absolutely incredible and I admire the resilience of those kids who make it through with a strong sense of their self intact.

        My bullying commenced in early primary school and 18 months ago (or more now!), when I had a mental breakdown, my psychologist diagnosed me with PTSD as a result of that bullying.

        It is, in fact, Complex PTSD – which still isn’t classified as its own disorder and is a topic of much debate – because the PTSD I was already suffering from early childhood set me up to be fodder for some abusive partners in my teenage and early adult years. The Complex basically describes the ways in which the different layers of different trauma interact with one another.

        Essentially, what happened was that in order to survive the bullying, and later, the domestic violence, I developed coping mechanisms that are not… normal.

        But they are now my natural instinct and so they FEEL normal to me – I have emotional flashbacks which don’t belong in the present, and so as I got older, it became increasingly difficult to navigate adult society and relationships.

        People call Complex PTSD “Surviving Childhood Trauma”, but I think a more appropriate term for it is “Surviving Your Survival of Childhood Trauma” – the coping mechanisms you learn are what you need to review, rewire and rid yourself of…

        I’ve written about it in the following posts:

        First post I made about it:
        http://warycontraryandnovirginmary.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/the-new-shiny-leaf-on-which-i-now-sit/

        Post in which I go on to describe the bullying itself:
        http://warycontraryandnovirginmary.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/i-said-i-wouldnt-go-into-detail-but-then-this-happened-trigger-warning/

        Where I find out it’s not PTSD, but is actually Complex PTSD:
        http://warycontraryandnovirginmary.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/complex-ptsd-well-that-sucks-balls-i-swear-a-lot-in-this-dont-care-either/

        And a whole other blog I created just to talk about it – some these posts involve flashbacks of the domestic violence I endured so I understand if people don’t want to read them. The first two posts are explanations of what CPTSD is, and what it feels like.

        http://itsokaytoeatfish.wordpress.com/

        It is certainly frustrating to have PTSD, but it so entwined with who I am that I honestly believe the only reason that I can write the way I do is because the abuse I’ve endured (the manipulation and gaslighting) forced me to explain myself over and over and over – first to my abusers, and then to myself when I took their word over my own.

        I have also dissociated so much that the emotion of an event is now removed from the event – which means I can talk about horrors that were inflicted on me, and describe them in depth, but not be upset by them – I get upset by something in the present that somehow triggers the emotion that is now unattached.

        It’s so hard to explain… haha! But it is *incredibly* fascinating and has certainly made me respect the human brain’s ability to ensure PHYSICAL survival…even if it is sometimes at the cost of mental wellbeing.

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      • I thought you’d blogged about your bullying. I remember now, you were pretty young when it started with a popular girl at school (primary school). I’ve read your posts but will get to your other blog when I’m game.
        You certainly have your work cut out for you. Sorting the good from the bad or right from wrong, must be tough.
        Taking control must be a foreign feeling, exploring new territory bit by bit.
        Anyway, I now know what the term gaslighting means and have a fraction of understanding of what you are up against. Gaslighting is a blog topic on its own.

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      • Gaslighting is the most insidious form of abuse, I think and I also believe it’s what has most affected me – it honestly makes someone feel insane and takes away their belief in themselves.

        I have my work cut out for me, but .. we all have different challenges in life – this just happens to be mine.

        I do get angry, sometimes, but in this circumstance it’s a waste of energy – I now know when it’s appropriate, however, and I’m learning how to use it to keep myself safe.

        Baby steps – but steps nonetheless.

        What a conversational day, we’ve had Bruce!

        Brilliant post to inspire it!

        Like

      • A conversational day, no doubt at all. Keep on stepping Bri; and it’s the comments that have been brilliant.

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  2. Given the number of king hits or cowardly hits as they’re being called at the moment, it’s just as unsafe for young men to be out and about. I only went to sleep when I heard the scratch of a key in the lock and the thump, thump of footsteps down the corridor.
    Here’s the thing about this girl, Bruce. You’d like to say something, but you can’t because you’d be the stranger she was warned against. On the other hand should you be your ‘sister’s keeper? It’s a hard one.

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    • It is difficult Mary as you say, and I shouldn’t have to be my sister’s keeper but will if needed. It’s unsettling to see women, young and old etc in situations where they can so easily be hassled or worse. It’s frustrating in many ways.
      This girl I watched walking in the gloom is probably fine and might have been doing this for years without much concern. She might even wonder what I’m going on about if she knew I worried about her situation.
      Oh well. I did say she didn’t know me.

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      • Bruce, sometimes I think I’m responding to something and it comes out meaning something else on ‘paper.’
        Here’s what I’m thinking: in some situations we should most definitely be our brother’s keeper. But political correctness these days gets in the way. You don’t know this girl. If she were a daughter or a sister you’d say something and she would most likely pat you on the shoulder and tell you to but out and that she can handle herself just fine, thanks very much.
        Sidle up to a stranger and whether or not she felt safe walking down a lonely road in the dusky gloom, she would find your kind intentions suspect.
        Sorry I’m so slow with my responses these days. Life has got in the way. This one I had to deal with pronto.

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      • Mary, your comment was fine. I understood what you meant.

        I wrote in my post that I couldn’t stop and talk to her even if I wanted to. I know I would be suspect and she’d probably speed dial the coppers, mace me and blast me with a portable air screamer or something before the cuffs were clicked.

        It’s probably my writing failing to get that point across. I’ll check my post, an edit might be in order!

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      • It’s not your writing, it’s my need, these days, for a re-read. I just don’t have as much time to keep up with my regular blogger friends as I used to. I love your writing, Bruce.

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      • As you can see Mary, I’m also slow in keeping up with my reading and comments. I’ll try to improve although I do operate a little under the banner of ‘blog when you feel like it’. The other bit is finding the time. And thank you Mary.

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  3. As both you and Mary expressed so well, it’s a two-sided problem. The young woman is exposing herself to potential problems, and you, a kind-hearted stranger, can’t offer any protection because if you do, you instantly become the imagined threat. Sometimes I miss the days of my childhood when the lady down the street or the man next door would assume the parental role when necessary.

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    • I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels as I do when passing a female in a prone situation. However, even if plenty of women know that, it doesn’t change much.
      I like the reference to simpler childhood days Charles. These days, if a neighbour (particularly a man) tried to assume a parents role when necessary, he might find himself accused of interfering with a child.

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  4. James
    its always OK to ask RUOK…NO EXCUSES! I’ve never felt like i was begin thought of as a threat. I suspect because I ask without getting to physically close.
    If all else fails call the police yourself.
    I remember reading about a horrific murdered in a semi rural area in Sydney south east many years ago. People listened to her screams early in the morning did nothing.
    I understand your feelings about how it may look but part of me feels you actions are little cowardly.
    Peter

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  5. James should read BRUCE,my apologies.

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