Many people look at me and think: "I would not mess with that girl. She's jacked." Obviously I wasn't always this way. My turning point and lifting obsession started seven years ago. I'd already begun my fitness journey with an eight-week challenge hosted by Muscle & Fitness Hers, but that wasn't when the transformation occurred.
Rather, it was after. I'd left a friend's birthday party early because I had class the next morning. Even though friends offered to walk me to my car, I opted out. I would be fine. I always was. I walked through the parking lot, went up the elevator, and exited on the fifth floor, where I'd parked. But as I walked aimlessly on the fifth floor without luck finding my car, I thought for sure it had been stolen. I checked the sixth floor of the parking structure before calling the cops to report my car missing. After, standing at the elevators for what felt like a lifetime, my patience ran out and I took the stairs instead. Hell, it was only one flight.
But I had a terrible feeling.
I turned around and saw a man standing a few steps below me with the most terrifying look on his face. I immediately sprinted up the stairs but he caught up to me. He ripped off my dress and touched me. I fought back, but it wasn't enough. I punched, I clawed… and he returned the punches.
I smelled liquor on his breath as he whispered into my ear. Just as this sexual assault neared rape, I made my way toward the doorway. My attacker was too drunk to find his balance. As he pressed himself up, he pushed me out of the stairwell and onto the parking lot floor. A janitor stood a few feet away from me, and I screamed for him. He ran over, called for help on his radio.
After, what seemed like a life time, of police reports, photographing my body, taking finger nail scrapings, I went home to take the longest shower of my life.
There were no cameras in the parking lot or the stairwell.
They never found my attacker.
So why do I share this story now? I tell many of my girlfriends to be careful walking to their cars alone, to be more aware of their surroundings, and not to be ashamed asking someone to walk them to their car. Most of them have the "I've got this!" mentality: We are strong women, and we don't need anyone's help.
I don't share this to instill fear in you, but rather, as more of a reality check. There are things we can do to help prevent incidents like this.
- Let friends walk you to your house or car.
- Carry some form of protection with you at all times and know how to use it. I recommend pepper spray or a taser.
- If you go on a date with a person you haven't met in person, have your first meeting in a public place and inform your friends where you are going.
- Just like your mother has told you time and again: Don't leave your drinks unattended.
- BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS. In this day and age, more so than seven years ago, people have their phones and cameras so far up their own ass, they are not present. Pay attention to who's around you or if you're being followed. I no longer blame myself for that night, but it is possible that if I was more present when I parked my car, I would have remembered where I parked it.
That incident seven years ago changed me. I remember that day and think, If only I was stronger, I could have fought him off. I've never felt so helpless. Lifting was and remains my therapy. Hitting new PRs and gaining strength makes me feel powerful and in control of my life. I never want to feel that helpless again.
I wasn't "asking" to be sexually assaulted, nor do I believe parking structures and stairwells are inherently unsafe. People and their actions are what made me unsafe that night, and that isn't my fault. But I still regret not being able to hold my own against my attacker.
Feel free to contact me or contact below if you want to share you thoughts or story. Thank you for taking the time to read mine. I am not sharing this incident in my life to get sympathy from people, but rather to help others find their therapy… and possible avoid situations like this altogether.