In the Summer of 2015, a close friend of mine was walking home after dinner, just a side street away from a major downtown street, when the thing we dread most when walking home alone happened – two males grabbed her from behind. One of them placed his hand firmly around her neck and mouth, while the other grabbed her hands behind her back. At that moment as her fear and adrenaline kicked into overdrive, there was only one option – to fight back.
Unbeknownst to the attackers, she was a cardio-boxing instructor and although she was never professionally trained, she had enough instinct and knowledge to be able to hit them and ward them off. She called me right after the attack and recounted the whole thing.
As she left dinner that night around 12:30 PM, she turned off the main street onto the street she was living on when the two guys suddenly came up behind her. In her memories, she later told me that she remembered seeing them sitting on a curb as her friend got into an Uber but can’t recall them following her. Nevertheless, they did and wasted no time jumping her the minute they thought they were alone. As the attackers grabbed her, she tried to pull herself free but when she couldn’t, her body entered “fight mode.”
She was wearing heels that night and kicked the one guy holding her neck smack in between his legs. It was enough to hurt him and scare him into running away. While he took off, his friend continued to claw at her forearms as she tried to free herself. She finally managed to free one of her arms and used her elbow to hit him directly in the face not once but multiple times until he let her other arm go. Once free, she ran down the end of the street to the condo she was living in. As she struggled to get into the lobby, the man she had just escaped showed up behind her screaming “you’re going to jail you f**cking c*nt,” over and over again. His face was bleeding and scared that he was right, she waited in the lobby as he threatened to call the police.
He never did, but someone else did.
The police showed up minutes later, along with a couple that had witnessed the entire thing from the townhomes across the street and immediately called the cops as soon as they saw her being grabbed. The couple admits they didn’t intervene as they were afraid the guys had weapons so thought it was best to call the police.
One of the officers, noticing that she was visibly shaken told her to take a seat on the sidewalk. The attacker was put into the back of an ambulance while they tended to his bleeding face. The officer told her bluntly, that it doesn’t look good. That she looks totally fine and the guy has a bleeding face so that it’s hard to say who is to blame here. Still in shock, she sat there silently. She raised her hands to her face and buried her face in them, thinking that she would be arrested. When she did that, though, the cop noticed the gashes from the nail marks all down the back of her forearms that were dripping blood (the scars remain today). That sight finally prompted him to get a statement from the witnesses that watched the whole thing.
The couple walked him over to where it happened where they discovered her phone and purse which had fallen when she was first attacked. They then explained that there were two guys initially and that they both grabbed her and the only thing she did was defend herself.
The cop came back to speak with her and told her that she was one of the lucky ones. That this happens unfortunately every weekend and that no one ever really talks about it. He then proceeded to ask her if she had anything to drink that night. She told him that, yes, she had some wine at dinner. The cop levelled with her and said that if she had alcohol in her system it would be a much harder time for her in court. He admitted that when it comes to these cases it’s a lot harder for a woman to prove the guilt of a man because the attacker’s lawyer will tear her a part when it came time to recollect what happened. And that one slip up would be enough to cast doubt in people’s minds to let him walk free.
He then told her, at least you gave him almost 20 stitches to the face. As if that was enough of a consolation for being almost beaten or raped, or worse. He then said if it wasn’t you, it would have been someone else and it’s possible you saved another girls life tonight. With that, they parted ways, which is when she called me – in the moment she finally allowed herself to feel and break down. She was hysterical and terrified and shocked that there was nothing that she could do. Or at least she felt like there was nothing after that little “pep talk” from the officer. She told me how she remembered the night unfolding and I encouraged her to still press charges but she refused. In her mind, she would be fighting a battle that has already been lost before it had started. Which is no doubt how a lot of survivors of abuse, sexual assault, harassment and rape unfortunately feel.
So why don’t women speak up? Because not only are we discouraged to say something, it often seems that it is more normalized in society to actually assault women then it is for a woman to speak up. Society is far more comfortable with dealing with the notion of a male attacking a woman than a woman standing up for herself. No matter how much time has elapsed, an attack will always stay with a woman. So yes, while details may get hazy because in the moment your body jumps into survival mode and the last thing you’re thinking about is pulling out a pen and paper and taking notes down about what happened. And as time passes, certain details may be completely uncertain because your mind builds up a wall to protect you from scarring experiences, that doesn’t mean that the terror that the woman felt in the moment is not real. It also doesn’t mean her experience is any less real because it makes society uncomfortable to talk about.
As much as we as a society, support men when they say they “didn’t do it”, we have as much of a duty to believe a woman when she says “I was attacked.” Innocent until proven guilty applies in both instances. And at the very least a woman who has suffered at the hands of an attacker deserves the right to be heard in the court of law and given a fair, unbiased investigation. Apparently, that’s still too much to ask for at times, but it’s not too late for us to work toward making changes that will advance us as a society and make the world a better place for not just women but for men too.
*Names and details of streets have not been given as the victim doesn’t want the attackers to be able to identify who she is.
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