I think your life experiences help mold you in becoming the person you are in life. Sure, some of it is determined by your innate personality, but I do think your life experiences determine, to a great extent, how you live your life. If you’ve experienced great tragedy, it will affect you. If your personality is more resilient, a tragedy may affect you to a lesser extent. If your personality is more sensitive, it may greatly inhibit you for the rest of your life.
One of those statistics that I have in the back of my mind is that between 1/6 and 1/4 (depends on the source) of women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime. I feel lucky to not be in this statistic for a number of reasons, but the main reason being that I think something like that has the potential to forever change your relationship with the rest of the world. Something like that has the potential of letting fear overtake your life.
I attribute my evasion mostly to luck. The odds were somewhat in my favor to begin with. Plus I happened to never be alone with anyone who was exceedingly disrespectful (luck). And I learned my non-expensive lessons earlier in life that shaped how I operated later in life (that one might not be luck).
I think about this stuff because I now have a daughter and maybe I watched a Lifetime movie in the past week, which can always be a reason to increase
the paranoia level awareness.
Thinking back, I can only come up with three instances that even come close to the broadest definition of sexual assualt. But what is funny is that they occurred when I was young and before I ever dated. Each taught me a lesson, or at least I interpreted them as life lessons.
Instance 1: I was 8 years old, and it was summer. My mother had commissioned an older lady in a single wide trailer to watch me during the day while she was at work. I hated it there. The family dynamics were awful. There were two grown sons who were in and out. There were two other kids there (one girl, one boy), and I can’t recall if the older lady was babysitting them too or if they were her sons’ kids. Anyway, the older lady sat on the couch all day and smoked while we three kids did whatever we wanted. Well, the boy found a shed in the backyard that was full of pornography. Likely it was the older sons’. There were piles of hard core stuff. Then the boy wanted to act it out and got naked several times over the course of a few weeks. Nothing happened between us other than being subjected to pornography and the naked boy although it wasn’t that age appropriate. I insisted that I stay home alone to my mother vs. go back to that babysitter. I never told my mom the real reason – well, there were many reasons, but the plethora of pornography that I can still remember to this day because it is forever etched in my mind plus the constantly stripping boy are the most notable. Of course, the older lady was oblivious to all of it.
Life Lessons from Instance 1: Trust my gut instinct when I didn’t like the place on the first day. My judgment is independent of my mother's.
Instance 2: Sophomore in high school. The class setup had been moved in the previous class, and all the desks were squished together. My seat was behind the class jerk (a senior), and I had this tiny space to squeeze through next to him, and he was sitting at his desk while the teacher stepped out of the classroom. I debated my dilemma, and he was waiting to see what I would do. I chanced it and squeezed past him sideways. He pinched my butt, which I had halfway anticipated. The rest of the class saw it, and you could tell that they were waiting to see what I would do. I wanted to smack him on the head, and had I done it, I probably wouldn’t have gotten in too much trouble given the situation. But it was more that I was worried about retaliation from him and his friends because they were awful. I didn’t do anything, which in retrospect I would have done completely differently. Still, for some reason I still feel violated by the incident or perhaps it was my non-reaction to it.
Life Lesson from Instance 2: How you react to things creates a pattern of interaction.
Instance 3: Unlike Instance 1 and 2, which were beyond my control given the situations, Instance 3 wouldn’t have happened if I had been less stupid. It involved Paul, the guy who later stalked me for a couple of years and who pulled a knife on me. When this specific instance happened, it was before all of the later escalated behavior on his part. BUT I still got a weird vibe from him. On this day in particular, he offered me a ride home from school, but he ended up detouring to his house first, which was further away than my house. Again, I felt uneasy about the whole thing and should have insisted he take me home, but at the time there was some sort of legitimate-sounding excuse on his part.
Get to his house, and there’s no one home. In retrospect, the afternoon could have gone bad in so many ways since he was considerably stronger than me. Nothing too horrible happened, but it was bad enough to get a life lesson.
Life Lesson from Instance 3: Be less stupid about who you’re alone with.
All in all, each of these situations taught me something, and none were serious enough to do any long-term damage. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I wish everyone else was as lucky.