Trigger warning for rape

I grew up along the Northwest branch of the Anacostia river. Most of my free timewas spent tromping around the woods, climbing trees and clamoring on rocks. Being in the woods—not just any woods, being in that woods, is still one of the most sacrosanct parts of my life. It’s my safe place: I breath a huge sigh of relief as soon as I step into the tree line.

I just moved back to my parent’s house for a few weeks before starting grad school, and I was excited to be near my beloved little river once again. But then my mom warned me—just two weeks ago, a woman who was my age had been jogging in broad daylight when she was forced off the trail by a man with a knife and raped.

Here on DDP, we’ve already been over the fact that about 73% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows. Though we can be less worried about someone leaping out from behind the bushes, we know acquaintance rape is not really a comforting thought either.

But despite the odds, attacks by an unknown perpetrator do happen. 27% of the time, to be more specific. And they can happen in my woods, in my inviolable childhood place. It makes me so angry that I can feel the blood running to my face just thinking about it.

A suspect matching the perpetrator’s description was found a few days later at the scene of the crime, and was arrested and charged with first degree rape and armed robbery. As glad as I am that he is off the streets (assuming he is found guilty), it doesn’t ease my mind so much. The seed has been planted that I’m not safe in that park. Given that the attack happened to someone whose description I meet exactly—a woman in her 20’s who likes trail jogging in broad daylight— maybe there is more truth in my mom’s constant worrying about me hiking than I care to admit.

So that’s why I’m looking into taking a knife fighting course.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not usually one to advocate violence. I am not one to put the blame on the victim of an assault because I think she “should have been more prepared.” For all I know, the woman who was attacked could have been a black belt but couldn’t defend herself because hello, he had a weapon.

But regardless of any other woman’s abilities and willingness towards risking violence, I want to do whatever I can to put the fear of god into whoever tries to attack me. Because I refuse to give up the freedom of going where I please. I refuse to live in fear or hide in my house. I refuse to be policed. It’s something I’m willing to fight for, and increasingly I think it might be something I’m willing to die for. Maybe it is, or maybe I’ll get into a sticky situation and realize maybe it isn’t. I hope sincerely that I never have to find out. For now, I still tuck my camping knife into my shorts before I go running.

Before I run, I try to think of Lies about Knife Fighting, a sobering list reminding you that knife fighting is kind of a poor decision and you don’t know as much as you think you do about it: “Don’t fantasize about being in a situation where you have to use your knife fighting skills, because you can end up tricking yourself into just such a situation by blinding yourself to possible escape routes”

This is important for me to remember because I have a bit of a machisma complex, a tougher-than-you demeanor that is probably 50% talk if I’m being honest with myself. But the other 50% is completely genuine. It’s my rage at being born into a world where walking alone is considered a poor decision, where I arm myself with pepper spray just to go for a walk in the woods. Maybe that half of me is the part that’s going to get me killed one day, but goddamn it if I don’t take someone down with me.