I am a very aware and proactive person when it comes to my personal safety. I've studied a martial art for going on 16 years. I have a CWP, and I almost always have a weapon on my person, though it is more often my Benchmade than a gun. I am careful. I try not to put myself in potentially dangerous or risky situations.
And yet, even with all of that, sometimes I still do. Saying someone should remove themselves from a situation, or not get in one in the first place is all well and good, but 1) It's not always as easy as you think, and 2) Everyone makes mistakes, and they're always easier to see in hindsight.
As you may know, my husband and I manage rentals for my f-in-law. Now, both Jim and Mark have said they're not really comfortable with me showing units to prospective tenants alone. Sometimes, I do it anyway. Why? Because it's sometimes just easier for me to get to it now, than to try and schedule something when my f-in-law, my husband, or our on site manager can be there. Especially if I've talked to a woman on the phone, I feel safe. Plus, I'm trained, right? And there are other tenants around, usually, in the units next door.
But they might not hear anything. Tenants in rentals tend to tune out noise unless it gets really obnoxious. That woman on the phone? She could be setting me up. She might not come alone, or someone else could come in her place. In the ten years we've been doing this, not once has it been a problem. But it could be, and I know it.
Worse than that, last year when I was visiting our on site manager, who happens to be one of my best friends, at about midnight, we had a noise problem. One of our tenants, a Mexican man who DJs and looooooooooooooves to share his music with the whole neighborhood during the summer, had begun blaring said music. It's pretty distinctive, so I knew who it was, and I knew right where to go to ask him to turn it down.
We'll call him B. B also really likes his drink, and in the summer he likes to party, drinking and sharing his music. I've dealt with him on more than one occasion, and I already know going in that he's a very friendly, happy drunk, who always tries to press a drink into your hands when you tell him to please turn down his music. Other tenants often party with him, so there are usually people going in and out of his garage, where his DJ equipment is set up. Now, I personally don't care much for B. Whenever there is a real issue, like he's late paying his rent, or he's parking in the wrong spot, he has this attitude about him that says "You're a woman, and therefore I don't have to listen to you." No, really. I've made my husband go and deal with him before, because he won't really listen to me. But he's always turned his music down when asked, so walking down there on that particular night didn't seem like it would be a problem.
But, when I asked him to turn it down, he couldn't hear me. He was in the back of his garage. Some guy I'd never seen before was sitting in a chair back there with him, and there were a couple of other tenants outside their own unit smoking, and drinking from cups that looked like they'd already visited B and gotten a little something. The garage door was halfway down, no doubt in a vain attempt to control the volume coming from inside. I walked into the garage so he could hear me. Mistake #1. Of course, Mr. Happy Drunk tried to give me a drink, which I refused, and wanted me to listen to this one song before he turned it down. Because it's a good song, you know. And then he has to introduce me to his cousin, and when I shook that man's hand, he said something in spanish I couldn't understand, but B was happy to translate once he found out I didn't speak Spanish (which he already knew, but had to ask again due to the copious amounts of alcohol keeping him from walking straight.)
His cousin thought I was very, very pretty. Now, about this time was when I realized just how dangerous a situation I had walked into. I knew, some part of me recognized it all before then, but that cousin was nowhere near as drunk as B, and he kept trying to touch me. A hand on the arm, on the shoulder, but still, it made me very uncomfortable. He was also huge, much bigger than me. B kept laughing and telling him to leave me alone, but really, it was obvious he'd be no help if something happened. That damn door was half down, the music was really loud, and something awful could happen before anyone else got to me.
It was about then that my friend decided I'd been gone for too long and came looking. I still remember the sense of relief when she walked into the garage, we reiterated the need to turn down the music before the cops were called, and left. Stupid, I thought. Stupid, stupid, stupid. To walk into that garage in the first place. To stay there to be polite and listen to some song I didn't care about. To not get the fuck out the instant I felt something off. Stupid, and it could have ended very differently.
If something had happened, I admit, I probably would have partially blamed myself. Because I should have known better. It is a common victim response to blame yourself. But the fact is, whoever decides to bully, attack, or rape you is the one to blame. Should I have not walked into that garage? Absolutely. But I did. That doesn't mean I gave any kind of consent for anything that might have happened. I am a smart, savvy woman who takes a very proactive approach to personal defense, and yet...it still happened to me.
The victim is never to blame.