Two weeks ago on my way home from church, I was traveling on a very crowded 2 Express train. Now New Yorkers know on a crowded train anything goes: no space, rude comments, and unfortunately you might find yourself all up in someone else’s personal space. I’ve lived in New York State for seven years and New York City for three years with only one incident where I felt my life was in danger. Still, nothing prepared me for what happened. I’m always on my guard, that is who I am, but for some reason I decided to not listen to that still small, voice that tells you that something is wrong. For some reason, I decided to rationalize that because I was on a crowded train that this was normal and that 1) no one would be that stupid to try something in daylight with so many witnesses and 2) someone would speak up for me if they saw something inappropriate. I won’t go into details, but needless to say what happened was beyond inappropriate and this extremely naïve 23-year-old virgin did not realize what was happening until she stepped off the train.
Obviously, I was angry, hurt, and just pissed off. I blamed people because I realized when I looked back there was plenty of room and they could see in plain sight what was happening. But then again, they easily could have thought I was with this person. Yes, lil ol me with this 45 year old, shorter than me, pathetic excuse for a man. Then, I blamed myself because I decided rather to get lost in my headphones (like so many New Yorkers) than to accept the fact that someone was all up on my ass. In truth, I had no one to blame but myself because when I felt the need to speak up I chose not to out of fear of causing a scene and being labeled that loud, crazy, black girl. By God’s good grace nothing worse happened and I have to be grateful that I was not physically injured. Needless to say, though, I’ve learned my lesson: crowded trains are no excuse for inappropriate touching. And if anyone should try something like that in the future, I will hurt you.
So why am I writing about this? Well, I got the “Welcome to New York” speech twice. Thank you, but I was welcomed by the drunkard who shoved me into a concrete wall and countless homeless men pissing and masturbating on the train a long time ago. No matter what, this is not okay and no woman should be subjected to that. But because this could happen to anybody and with the string of attacks happening in Brooklyn, I feel its necessary for every woman (…and yes, even the men) to be on guard and protect ourselves. When you sense something is wrong, listen to your instincts. They are there for a reason; walk away, get off the train, get out of the cab, flag down a cop or MTA personnel. Whatever you do, USE YOUR VOICE!!! Do whatever it takes to get out of harm’s way. And if you see something wrong, please speak out. I know mainstream culture has desensitized us to so many things, including violence (its everywhere here in the city), but we’re human beings and our bodies are valued and deserve respect. (Yes, y’all can probably sense the projection here…)
One way to respect you and your body are self-defense classes. Even if it is one class, ladies especially should learn a thing or two about protecting ourselves. I personally suggest Krav Maga. Krav Maga is the art of self-defense used by the Israeli Defense Forces. I’ve taken a few classes, not only does it bust your ass, but teaches you how to kick an attacker’s. If you’re in Brooklyn check out, Brooklyn Krav Maga Federation. The teachers and other students are really nice (and pretty hot!), but are very serious about you not leaving without learning one key way to stop an attacker. They incorporate Jewish philosophy into their teachings, which I love, and are very clear that what they teach is to defend yourself. So, don’t get cocky and kick someone’s ass because you can! If not Krav Maga, the New York City Council is offering free Self-defense classes in Central Park. If you’re not in NYC, check out your local YMCA for self-defense classes.
Ladies, remember to take the necessary precautions when you go out. Have 911 on speed dial. Bring your pepper spray. Don’t leave your drink unattended. If you’re running (especially alone – which I don’t advise), wear your reflective gear. Do not be afraid to speak up. Your body is important and no one has the right to touch you without your consent. Finally no matter how it may look, don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself because its obvious no one else will.