Why nighttime is always penciled into my rape schedule.

My entire life I have lived with other people.  Family first, then college roommates, then family again, post-college roommates after that and with my partner, as I live now.  Well, sort of.  He is out of town for work now, as he has been for the last month and will be for the next month until the elections are over. 

I’ve realized since he’s been gone that I just haven’t been sleeping that well.  This is hard to admit because I see myself as an independent person, someone who can get by on her own.  I’m currently enrolled in a Women’s Studies program and am surrounded by intelligent, strong, progressively minded women who inspire me to push my own boundaries of thought and activism every single day.  So when my partner was gone for the first few days and I lost a little sleep, I thought it was just my body’s way of adjusting to having an entire full sized mattress to myself.  But as one week turned into two, then three, and now four, I find that as I twist and turn in bed it is not him I miss, but what his presence in my bed symbolizes: protection.

Although I have never been a victim of physical or sexual assault, I find myself living as if any moment I will be.  Every creak in the floor, foot on a step or door being closed sounds to me like someone is on their way to my floor, my front step, my bedroom door.  I realize now, while I sit here typing this at 4 in the morning unable to sleep, that I live my life by a schedule not planned by me.  I live by the rape schedule.

I know all the facts about how rapists are rarely that stranger in the bushes, but instead that classmate down the hall.  But still, the paranoia consumes me.  I feel paralyzed in my own space.  Every strange sound I hear takes my attention and puts me to, let’s say, Orange Alert.  And I have to tell you, it makes me feel really irrational.  Because I know I’m safe, or at least live in a building on a street that I find to be un-dangerous.  So when I sit and think about it, I feel like a silly little girl who just hasn’t found her way in the world yet.  My friends don’t have these same scenarios playing out in their heads when they walk at night, right?

As unarticulately I have been getting here, my point is this: this schedule of fear puts me, us, all women, in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.  If you are not careful of your surroundings or mindful of your many steps in life, someone will tell you that you should have known better if you are (god forbid) ever attacked.  Locking your doors and windows at all time, carrying mace in your clutch, and wearing a less revealing top would have saved you from such a fate.  All of which may be great cautionary measures, but should not be the only thing on your mind when you leave home.  The other side of this is that if you do all these things, plus jump at the sound of every pin drop, you are forced to live your life in a paranoia-induced haze.  Where you measure your success by walking to your building from your car without getting cat-called by that creepy ass stranger.  Where you can’t fall asleep because you live alone and are pretty sure there is a billboard somewhere with that information posted on it (or at least it feels that way). 

I think that women having to live by a rape schedule is a real problem in our country.  But I think a real issue is that we are too afraid to talk about it.  Because whether or not the impending offense is real, the fear is.  And while many women may not feel like they live by a rape schedule simply because it has the word "rape" in front of it, I think there is a degree of fear that we all come across at various points of our days and lives, but rarely ever admit to it.

So in the hope of creating a dialogue about it, as well as to destigmatize those who may not feel compelled to talk about it as a part of their everyday routine, I ask my fellow readers, in what ways, if any, do you live your life by a rape schedule?  And how can we empower ourselves to be released from its overbearing constrictions while still exercising proper amounts of caution?

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

Join the Conversation