Experts will tell you that criminals are looking for an easy mark. Someone that doesn’t look like they will put up much of a fight. When surveying the landscape, they are figuring their risk vs reward ratio.
The experts will go on to talk to you about situational awareness, keeping your head up, moving with confidence, and putting your phone away while walking. These are good things. Not only do they make you more aware of your surroundings and thus able to react more quickly, but they also make you appear to be a harder target.
This week has been a rather unexpected experiment. It doesn’t really matter that I walk with my head up constantly surveying. It doesn’t matter that I’m confident and aware. This week, I’ve been a petite woman with a bruised up face* and a bandage on my jaw.
I can see the assumptions in people’s eyes. (By the way, I’m pretty sure that even if the assumptions were correct, staring and gaping at the woman in the grocery store is not going to empower her to get help.) I’m aware of the fact that I look like I’ve been punched in the face. Hard.
Guess who looks like the easiest person in the room to victimize? If you guessed the one that looks like they’ve been vicitimized before, you win!
I am careful, so nothing bad has happened, but I’ve certainly attracted the attention of more unsavory types. Rather than have them just pass me over in their scans, they’ve focused in. Thankfully, I’ve been able to convince them of their poor selection of victims with very aggressive eye contact and squaring up my stance, but it isn’t a friendly world out there.
And lest you think I’m being paranoid, as I was headed north along the sidewalk, the left side of my face was visible to men working in a garage. The bruising is confined to the right, so I appeared to the people in the garage as normal. One wolf whistle, no big deal. I take it as a compliment.
On the way back to my car, it was a different story. A couple of them put down their tools to catcall. One stating about how he’d like to take me home. In case I was unclear on his intentions, he punctuated it by grabbing his crotch. Classy guy. You know, because it’s perfectly normal to proposition a woman on the street with a swollen and bruised cheek and couple of butterfly bandages on the underside of her jaw. I squared off to him and gave him the death stare. He backed off immediately. I cannot confirm if that was due to my aggressive stance or the lack of caution I took in preventing the wind from briefly exposing the .45 on my hip. It was not my intent to expose it, but I wasn’t especially concerned with keeping it hidden in the moment.
Was I in immediate danger? No. This was in broad daylight on the sidewalk beside a very busy street at rush hour. I made no move to draw on dude. (Hey Brady’s! Look! I answered a threat without going for the gun on my hip! Unpossible!) Could it have transformed into an imminently dangerous situation? Absolutely. What if I hadn’t made it very clear that he’d made a very poor selection in his victim selection process? Maybe nothing would have happened. Or maybe if I hadn’t had my head up and been aware, he would have followed me to my car (not far, but farther than I could outrun him) which wasn’t so visible from the busy street. Who knows, maybe I added a weight to the risk side for the next time he figures his risk vs reward ratio. Best case scenario, I made it just a little bit safer for the next girl. Or maybe I just intimidated some random jerk. Gee, worst case scenario some classless jerk thinks I’m a bitch. I think I’m still winning here.
It’s been an eye-opening experience. It’s easy to forget those unsavory characters are out there when you aren’t attracting their attention on a regular basis. And sometimes looking like the easy mark is out of your control. Don’t be paranoid, but do be aware of what is going on around you. Listen when those alarms go off in your head. May all your encounters end with nothing more than a hard look.
*Which is healing up nicely, BTW. I’ll get an update posted on that soon.