Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Fear in the night

watching: Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse (The Gleaners and I) by Agnes Varda
feeling: Concerned

I was watching an interesting documentary (above) when I got some news that left me very troubled. I have an acquaintance, Bobby, who doesn't really get out a lot, but he has a wonderful information network in the form of co-workers and acquaintances to draw from. He absorbs information about what's happening in Lexington I never hear on the news. Apparently a young woman was raped in an area near downtown that I often catch the bus home fairly late at night. She was sitting outside her apartment taking a smoke and a man dragged her between two buildings and raped her. Bobby had spoken with one of her family. In the same area, a gay man was apparently attacked and raped by three men. He didn't report it to the police, but Bobby had heard it through the grapevine.

So...I'm troubled for several reasons. I know I'm never completely safe, per se, but it would probably be prudent to not be coming home after dark through that area for awhile. And I'm concerned, because I have friends living in the area, one a gay man who works second shift and walks home late.

It also infuriates me that not only are there people out there who do this sort of violence, but that there still is a perception that a woman can seek help from the authorities in response to the crime but a man cannot--particularly if he is afraid of being 'outed' as a result, but as difficult as it is for a woman to come forward, there are stronger societal pressures against men doing so...to admit they were attacked, even though no one's manhood is safe in light of a gun, or greater strength, or sheer numbers. As much as women sometimes go overboard about being afraid in everyday, ordinary situations, guys tend to have this bravado. I had a friend, Bill, who was confident that at 6'5" no one would ever attack him. I pointed out that a gun evens the odds considerably, and he had an arm injury from birth that made it difficult to block from that side. He was vulnerable. He just never would admit it. We are all vulnerable from one time to another.

At some point, when I was about fourteen or fifteen, I began to be afraid of men. Afraid I'd be raped. Afraid I'd be attacked. I don't know if it had something to do with the fact that I was no longer on base with its security police and gates (admittedly, there's plenty of crime on base...but back then we didn't realise it and the idea of a secure environment seemed real). Maybe it was a strange response to losing trust for my dad, who'd basically betrayed our family by living with another woman during a station away and then, once we were reunited, asking for a divorce after uprooting us and yet before we were even out of the motel. Maybe it has to do with deep-set fears from childhood that I think come from sexual abuse but cannot trust completely enough to say, yes, this happened, because so much of my childhood is a blank to me. I don't know. But I know I've lived with that fear, sometimes less, sometimes worse, ever since, and I think other women do, too. In my case, it's so pathological that it's very hard for me to be in a relationship...it's so hard to trust. It doesn't help that I married someone who also broke my trust. At one point I had a brief relationship where I was the one in control, but I couldn't commit more emotionally and ended it quickly. I probably hurt the person, although I tried not to. I've had one other person who tried to date me, but there was this overwhelming sense of possession that I found stifling and I had to put it to an end before it could begin. And it's not just men. The latter two were both with women. Ironic...I suppose, that I'm attracted to both sexes and by all stereotypes should be some sort of randy person, but I haven't had any non-platonic relationship in nearly ten years, and the one person I fell hard for, and who I was not scared by, could not return that, being a gay man. I often say in my case gender is irrelevant...that I'm just not a particularly sexual being. But that's not true. It just atrophies a bit without use. Zabet's husband (oddly enough) seemed to think it was his duty for awhile to give me...um...certain products that he felt I was too embarrassed to buy in a store on my own. Although that was originally true--although very little embarrasses me in terms of shopping, these days), the fact of the matter is I go through long periods where sex just doesn't come to mind. I read things like that guys think about it every 2-3 seconds, and think, wow, they waste a lot of time in their life. Yet I also realise that I've turned overly much to a more intellectual life to make up for the lack of a sexual one. It's like my anxiety issues and everything else made that part of life--and, in truth, it's an important one, no matter how taboo--something that I just pushed away or became afraid of.

So even though I've gone from never going out at night to where I would regularly cross downtown at nearly midnight, and not be afraid, things like that bring the fear back.

Which just sort of sucks.

Oh, and if you're walking between downtown and UK around Rose Street and Stone Avenue at night, be careful. Please.

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