The fear I feel.

June 28, 2013

Recently I went to a small, two-hour course – which was quite a way away – so I decided to park at the station and catch the train in.

It was about 9.00pm when I started my trek home.
It was dark and the going-home crowds had drastically thinned out.

This may seem irrational, but a teeny fear factor starts to kick in when I’m alone and at night. Not an all out fear – but most definitely a heightened sense of awareness.


I start to notice men more and I start to evaluate them – their possible danger factor. Stereotypically mostly – their age and/or their dress – but other times it’s if I catch them watching me. They’re the creepiest.

Is that fair? Do men feel insulted by me saying that? I don’t know – but the violent rape culture that has permeated our world dictates to me that it can happen anywhere; anytime; by anyone; TO anyone.

If I don’t do this and something happens, won’t the first point of the discussion be the judgment against me for putting myself in a ‘bad situation’? Or the fact I was wearing leggings and have nice legs? Victim blaming is rife in our culture.

I had to alight a practically empty train – I was the only one in my carriage when I got off (a little unnerving) – and had to walk in the dark to my car. I kept turning around to check noone was behind me, as I saw a young man dressed in rapper clothes also get off the train at my stop.

When I got in my car, I needed to turn on the wipers and didn’t see the slug that subsequently got smeared across my windscreen. Slug goo everywhere – yuck. I pulled into a petrol station to clean it off.

There was a gang of young men wearing hoodies at the paying window of the service station. Just them and me. I thought – there’s three of them and I’m alone but the chances of something happening are low…or are they?

That’s the conundrum and it feels like crap to live like this.

Let me tell you that my heightened state was compounded by the fact that slug goo is NOT easy to get off – I kept getting in my car, to have to get out again and give it another go – all the while keeping my eye on the young men.

Question #171: Can men truly understand how this feels?

Now, I consider myself quite strong in character and can stand up for myself in many situations, but I can’t help but feel a sense of uneasiness when I’m alone – especially at night – in this evermore dangerous world.

I often tell my students that FEAR is – False Evidence Appearing Real – as a way to help them navigate through fears that stunt their ability to forge their way forward.
In this case, however, I’m not sure if it is false evidence.
Statistically it’s not false.

Deep Breath.



34 Responses to “The fear I feel.”

  1. Mary said

    Its so sad how i always feel like this at night around people!

    • questionsforwomen said

      It is. It really is, Mary.
      I hope men understand it, although I’m not sure they truly can.
      Thinking of you. x

  2. Lily said

    To be honest, I feel this was whenever I am alone at night, and wherever I am. Especially walking home, out of my car, no matter how close to ‘safety’ I get. For example, I always hold my keys a certain way and have a ‘third eye’, scoping for strangers (both men and women), and even animals like stray dogs. I often judge people too, in the sense of what sort of a threat they may be. Since the heightened awareness caused by the recent cases of rape and murder in the media, I asked my fiancé if I should invest in some spray resembling mace. He actually agreed I should look into it. But to answer your question on whether it’s men I fear, admittedly I do feel more uncomfortable if I were on a bus or train with a man than with a woman. I still feel uncomfortable being by myself, though. As for men, I would imagine their sense of fear would stem from their own self confidence and self assurance based on their own physical features. My fiance is a 120kg 6ft bloke, he looks like a threat to other men, but he’s told me in the past he’s actually felt uneasy around certain people. ..

    • questionsforwomen said

      That’s amazing that he would feel that. I never thought someone that tall would feel uneasy around others.
      I think it’s sad that we feel this way as we navigate through the world.
      Thanks Lily for that insight.

  3. Harls said

    I can get a bit uneasy in the same circumstances you described (who wouldn’t?) but as a male I can try to make myself a bit more solid and intimidating – and I might fear getting bashed but I do *not* fear getting raped – so the answer is that you’re right, I don’t think men can really understand that fear you describe. All women should know to be alert, look around a lot, walk with purpose, how to hold your car keys in your hand (keys sticking out through your fingers), and if the worst happens, scream, scratch, kick, yell, fight like crazy. Only the maddest of the mad would persevere in their attack against a banshee acting like that. Most rapes don’t happen by strangers on darkened streets so the risk is actually small and can be made even smaller by acting smart and doing the right things if the worst happens. Peace x

    • questionsforwomen said

      The thing is that if you were with me, you would see it was nothing out of the ordinary – the boys in hoodies never even registered my presence – at least I don’t think so anyway…that slug stuff was quite hard to budge and I needed to focus 😉
      I recently gave my 10 yr old daughter advise about what to do if she was grabbed and it ran along the same lines of what you just said.
      Sad though, hey?

    • Physical resistance is not always possible – one may be significantly physically weaker than the attacker (E.g. a child), or may be facing a situation where resistance will worsen the situation (e.g. being raped at knife-point), and in the case of acquaintance rape, it might be impossible for a variety of reasons including fear, (unwarranted) shame) etc. As such, even if the risk of stranger rape is ‘small’, we should be hesitant to recommend resisting as the be-all-and-end-all, because it makes survivors who do not resist appear less credible.

      • Harls said

        Strongly disagree – and my disagree-ness is based on the facts not my own opinions. One should not be thinking of modifying their behaviour at the moment of being attacked, based on making another group of people appear less credible. Please Google what to do in case of attack. Being passive is the least desirable option.

      • I did not advocate a change in behaviour – if physical resistance is possible and appropriate, it will likely be used, because people fight back when they can. BUT, it should never be said that one SHOULD resist, rather only that one may resist, if possible and appropriate. The moment you recommend resistance, you devalue the lived experiences of survivors who were unable to resist, for whatever reason. Being ‘passive’ as you call it, is sometimes what keeps them alive – so it is not about desirability, but rather about whether resistance is an option at all. ‘Passivity’ isn’t the word I would use. When faced with a threat of a attack, be it rape or any other form of violence, it isn’t just the actual attack, but all the circumstances surrounding it that the attacked person has to respond to – as such, the response may be to NOT do anything, because that may be the only way to keep yourself safe from an even worse fate. Being able to resist (physically, emotionally, and otherwise) would be ideal, but not always realistic.

        However, when one says that the attacked person ought to do “x” to prevent/stop the attack, one is taking agency away from the attackER, who has made the obvious choice to use violence, and putting the blame on the attackED for not being able to ‘fight it off’. This leads to victim blaming.

      • questionsforwomen said

        Beautifully written.
        It was my exact – to the letter – attempted rape. I wrote about it when the whole ‘legitimate rape’ debacle was going on in The States. A serious double-whamy.
        He followed me to my dorm room, walked in, locked the door and sat in a chair between me and the door (3m x 3m room).
        He threatened violence so I knew I couldn’t fight him. Plus my door was closed and everyone was at the party.
        I can’t go into the depths of that experience – but passive was my way out and it happened to work for me in that I wasn’t raped – but I nearly was.
        If countless, COUNTLESS other women, at other times – in completely different and unique circumstances – choose a different approach? So be it.
        But our gaze must be firmly, without blinking, glaring at the attacker.
        So yes, I agree with your comment, Starlitwishes.

        PS I know that this is not what you’re saying, Harley, but I just wanted to ask you – Don’t you find it interesting that you could direct us to the Net, which will inform us on how to protect ourselves – and yet we can’t offer you the same advice, to research tips for your gender?

      • Harls said

        Don’t you find it interesting that you could direct us to the Net, which will inform us on how to protect ourselves – and yet we can’t offer you the same advice, to research tips for your gender?
        Paula you sure can direct me to tips on the Net to protect myself!

        Just being a smart alec. I know your meaning was, you can’t direct me to the Net on tips to help stop myself attacking and raping women. And sadly, if I am the type of sub human to be inclined to those activities, you’re correct, I would be unlikely to take your advice and Google “what’s the best way to not rape women?”

      • questionsforwomen said

        Well it’s not necessarily how not to rape – but maybe how to navigate through a mate admitting to it, or saying he may. (More for young men, I suppose). But you got what I meant.

      • Harls said

        Good question. Would I dob in a mate who confided in me he raped someone? Yes. Gimme the phone right now.
        Would a young twenty-something still craving approval from his mates do the same? I’m not so sure….

      • questionsforwomen said

        Sadly 😦
        But maybe there needs to be more of a culture on the Internet – addressing these sort of issues – guiding the young ones, who seem very lost, by the good men.

  4. Veronica said

    I find this an interesting post, I have read up on street crime and the reasons for rape and sexual assault. Haris is right that you are more likely to be raped by a person you know with 30% of rape cases being by strangers. Why do we fear this though? The media is bombarded by the horror stories of innocent women raped and sexually assaulted by men, so that they can collect enough views. Which says a lot about the news as they compete with each channel…news… I think its more entertainment sometimes.

    It wasn’t just that comment that interested me, you said you were concerned by your outfit, the way you were dressed with your leggings. This isn’t uncommon its a general misconception that women feel that what they wear alters their chances of assault. The percentage difference for whether you likely to be raped/assaulted by a male because your dress/ appearance is 3%! Isn’t that crazy! Just 3%!

    It is after reading and researching about street assault that I have learnt the only thing that will affect the chances of whether you are going to be raped, is if you happen to cross a rapist. Reasons for rape is so diverse also and usually it has no concern about a woman’s appearance it’s usually with dominance, and oddly enough nothing to actually do with sexual desire!

    We need to stop blaming women for the reasons of their rape! Drinking, clothing, running at night, traveling alone. None of these change the likelihood of rape, read any crime statistics on street assault and rape and you will see these are just claims.

    Sorry for the rant but I find it interesting. We (women) are bought up to prevent rape by changing our lifestyles but we don’t seem to emphasise or attempt to educate young men not to rape or what assault is (usually men who do assault women sexually are unaware that what they are doing is wrong.)

    It makes you think..

    • questionsforwomen said

      Thank you, Veronica for all that awesome information.
      I agree with you (and Harley) in that you are more likely to be violated by someone you know.
      I personally know many women who have been raped – one violently when 22, one when unconscious when 16 (and I know of more which I will not mention) I myself am a survivor of one attempted rape and of something else I still haven’t talked about. Two actually.
      None of these were on the street, but it’s ‘man’ we’re afraid of, not location. Well, I am anyway.
      I put the comments about the leggings purely to illustrate that yes, it’s ludicrous to see it is a reason for rape, and yet that’s what society does – sniffs around for ANY reason to make some sort of excuse for why something so horrific was done.
      Hear! Hear! Victim blaming needs to absolutely stop.
      I’ve done many a post saying the attention needs to turn toward the male brain. I’m nearly finished another post reaching out the the good men.
      It was great reading your thoughts 🙂

    • Love, love, love this:

      It is after reading and researching about street assault that I have learnt the only thing that will affect the chances of whether you are going to be raped, is if you happen to cross a rapist.

      Nothing you (as a woman, a man, or a child) have done relates to you being raped – it is a choice the rapist makes.

  5. COMPLETELY understand. It’s such a difficult balance to strike – between being ‘safe’ and being ‘scared’. And it’s even harder when you have to teach those skills to your kids. How do I teach them to be careful but not have irrational fears?????
    P.S. SO glad you enjoyed the course. I really enjoyed finally meeting you x

  6. Jo Hilder said

    Wowsers – so it wasn’t just me then?
    After the course that night I had to travel to Edgecliff to stay at my sons for the night – I’m from Newcastle, had no idea where Edgecliff was, or how to get to my sons. Navigating via phone app and text message.
    Trying to stride purposefully up Edgecliff Road from railway station like I knew where I was going, terrified passersby would see I had the maps app open on the phone in my hand and twig I wasn’t a local and jump me.
    Tried to break into next doors letterbox to get key – realised I had the wrong block of units (embarrassing – pictured residents taking movie on iphone of dumpy middle aged woman with dreadlocks forcing letterbox open whilst speaking in loud whispers on phone “it wont frigging open!”)
    Finally got in. Had to ring my son as it’s a share house and had nightmares of me a la Goldilocks climbing into the wrong bed after taking off my bra and pulling on my flanny jarmy pants. Got the right room Phew. So many terrors for an old girl. The bg city is a scary place.
    Did I mention, back in Newcastle where I live, there was a drive by shooting 100m from my house last week. Just another day in paradise. 🙂
    Great to meet you by the way – look forward to popping back here for a bit of a brain tickling from time to time.

    • questionsforwomen said

      You’re such a cack! Too funny! 😀
      Thanks for stopping by and it was a pleasure to meet you too! xx

  7. phillipaellis1968 said

    From a man’s perspective, I fear the perceived threat of violence more than rape. As with the perception in the media about rape as a stranger-committed crime, there is a tendency to focus on the prevalence of violence, especially those attacks fuelled in part by alcohol.

    There were many occasions as a teen where my mother would forget to pick me up late at night from the central library, because the only route home was past a pub infamous for the attacks by its patrons on strangers.

    And I feel, also, that men fear rape less than women by the perception that rape is only ever committed by men on women, and never on men. (Yes I know it occurs at far lower rates to men, but it is the perception I’ve picked up on among my fellow men.)

    • questionsforwomen said

      I was not just talking rape – just any violent act.
      What I’ve learned through this post is that yes, men can also feel that fear – sadly, it is from other men.
      I JUST saw in the news that a woman in Melbourne was followed by a man for a km, dragged into an alleyway and sexually assaulted. She’s in hospital with head injuries.
      I know that this sort of attack is rarer than we believe…but still…
      So terrifying.
      Thanks for your comment. x

      • phillipaellis1968 said

        Thank you for clarifying your points. I appreciate the time taken. And yes, it is from other men, which is a shame in that it hides the complexities of life’s realities: women, too can be violent, and men, too, can be nonviolent.

        I’d not been listening to the news, but my heart aches for the victim of that attack, as I fear that, as happens too many times, she may not get the justice she deserves. I need not point out how often sexual assaults go unreported or unprosecuted, as a result of skews in the justice women in favour of the accused.

        Thank you for your time and patience.

      • questionsforwomen said

        Please let me say one final thing – I truly know that there are very violent women (girl violence is skyrocketing) as well as non-violent men – the men in my life being many examples.
        It is sad that we seem stuck in a shitty paradigm.

  8. Can’t reply to your comment above questionsforwomen, as no space. I am really sorry that this happened to you. I hope you received sufficient support and assistance afterwards. I am glad you are able to write about it now, and have taken that experience to try and do good for others through this blog.

    I recently wrote a paper on rape myths, and resistance was a huge part of it, especially in court, because our definition of “assault” is so male-centered, where you generally picture two men getting into a bar fight (or equivalent) where both are capable of defending themselves (to an extent). Thus, there is a lot of weight given to whether a survivor resisted or not, and whether there were signs of this resistance. Although this is technically not what the law says to look at, it does happen, and it undermines the reality faced by survivors who were in situations such as the one you found yourself in.

    Like I said previously, resistance would be ideal and maybe helpful, but it should never be a metric. There is no guarantee it will work. It is but one possible way women (and men and children) may HAVE to protect themselves, though they should never have been put in that position in the first place.

    • questionsforwomen said

      Was that a blog post? Can you send me the link?
      Thanks so much for your kind words. No I got no support – not that I sought it out either. Everyone took sides. It was 1989 in a college dorm – even I thought, “Well, I wasn’t raped – what would I say?”
      I’ve really enjoyed this conversation and please call me Paula 😀 xx

  9. No it was a paper for school, though I am thinking about writing a post about it when I have some time.

    Quite a few survivors don’t even know they’ve been raped – its really tragic. Consent in questionable circumstances is usually suspect, and society’s general ambiguity towards consent can mean that a lot of people don’t even know what is and isn’t rape.

    I am even sorrier that you got no support! One would hope things have changed after so many years, but I hear from so many survivors even today that they feel alienated after their rape. It’s sometimes worse – the treatment they get following the rape or attempted rape or sexual harassment would amount to abuse in and of itself.

    Then feel free to call me Star, Paula 😀

  10. Veronica said

    First off thank you @starlitwishes I feel so intelligent (giggles)

    I am also sorry to hear that something that traumatic happened in your life (questions for women). I just wanted to add, an observation (a hole) in our education system that I feel is relevant and really bugs me.

    I remember clearly that at the age of 10 or 11 (year 6) we were all taught about sex. The birds and the bees, we were taught about protection, pregnancy and all the science about it. Then at the age of 14 and 15, we recapped this once again. I remember at the age of 16 we had finally and I emphasise FINALLY, were taught about human rights.

    Children are being taught about sex before human rights. No wonder younger and our generation is confused. I think even the simple talk of: if someone makes you feel uncomfortable you have the RIGHT by law to take action, no matter how small or large the accusation is. I think human rights should be taught at a younger age. Children, teens and even adults need to know that they have the RIGHT to speak up.

    It’s through my own horrible experience at 14 (thus the big gap of learning what sex is but not knowing human rights), that I have helped others including a friend (15 at the time) that was unsure about a situation. I encouraged them that if they felt that they had been violated, that it was their body telling them that they had been attacked. I also clarified that even if he had tickled them, they had the right to press charges on them.

    I feel that if children are being taught about sex, there should be an emphasis on HUMAN RIGHTS! I have heard of so many girls having sex with partners because they felt they HAD to, or girls treated inappropriately and quote “But he didn’t rape me, so I can’t blame them.” I know that it won’t stop crime from happening but I feel that if girls and boys were taught this, people would understand their rights. Knowing your rights is a powerful thing, and those who abuse others fear that.

    Also I agree it’s nothing to do with the area or the scene, in fact I am not afraid of men anymore. I am afraid of the act, the attack. Men just sadly carry the face of violence, because they are usually associated with it.

    • questionsforwomen said

      Spot. On.
      I think teaching rights is most definitely the way forward. I’ve done a little of it through my high school – but, yes, it MUST start much younger – especially to combat all that they’re being saturated with.

      Do I have your permission to repost some this comment on my blog and/or FB page?

      Thanks so mush for this comment, Veronica – Awesome!
      Paula x

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