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From Fearful to Empowered

20 years ago, on December 17, 1995, my mother was abducted at knifepoint with my older brother when he was 2 years old. After pumping gas into her car and buying my brother a Christmas tree cake, a man approached her from behind with a knife, forced them into her car, and drove away. He explicitly told her what would happen next; she was not going to make it out safely.

Knowing she needed time to escape with my brother, she convinced the man to drive to the bank. Her reasoning was that she and my father had just gotten paid, and the man wouldn’t get any money if she was harmed. While waiting at the bank, my brother began to wail from the backseat. She turned to calm him as much as she could while the man yelled at her to sit down and shut up. As this situation unfolded, another man, Russell, pulled up behind them. My mother caught his eye through the rear window, mouthing, “help me, help me.” Russell, following her instruction, pulled up behind her car. After receiving three-hundred dollars from the teller, a police officer rounded the corner, blocking some the perpetrator’s exit. He took off at full speed and drove through a nearby field, the police chasing him.

As my mother prayed to God, something miraculously stopped the car. The man flew out of the driver’s seat and ran off on foot, leaving behind my mother and brother. My mother grabbed my brother from his car seat and took off running towards the street. Russell pulled up in his truck and threw open the door, yelling at my mother – who didn’t really want to take a chance with another stranger – to get in his car. After Russell returned them to the safety of the police and ambulance, my father was called and informed. He showed up to the scene, my mother speaking with police and my brother playing in the backseat of a cruiser. He was adorned with a man-in-blue’s jacket and all the snacks the police could afford to buy him.

Several days later, after my mother identified him in a picture line-up, the man was indicted and convicted to 12 years in prison.

When I recently discussed the incident with my mother, I told her that just typing the event gave me chills. “Don’t get anxious,” she said. “Think about it with joy.” Something much worse could have happened that day, but instead of dwelling on what could have been, my mother chooses to find joy in her safety, her family, and her life.

This event never should have occurred. Times have changed. In ’95, my mother didn’t have a cell phone a friend could track, but today, there are numerous, quite empowering options women can take a part in to keep yourself safe.

1. Take a self-defense class

Self-defense classes are one of the simplest ways to keep yourself safe and feel like a badass at the same time. Almost all college campuses offer some sort of self-defense program. However, the R.A.D (Rape Aggression Defense) is another excellent program. They offer programs nationally and internationally. You can find a program near you here.

2. Practice Awareness

Being aware of your surroundings is such a simple way to keep yourself safe. Whether it’s a morning run or shopping with friends, simply taking in your surroundings can make a difference. We as women often find ourselves scrolling through social media, checking email, or texting our friends instead of paying attention to what’s going on around us. Put the phone down. The email can wait until you are safely inside your locked car or home.

3. Don’t be afraid to call someone

The saying “it’s better to be safe than sorry,” is true. If you feel like you are unsafe, never be afraid to call a friend or the local police department. Whenever you go out, day or night, be sure your phone is completely charged in case of emergency.

Still not sure that you feel entirely safe? Call your local government officials, mayors, legislators and governors, to open the discussion of repercussions for criminals, both new and previously convicted felons.  Opening the conversation makes you an active member in your safety and your community.

Make your voice and your opinion heard. What are some of the things that you do when you’re out at night? How do you stay safe and aware? Leave me a comment or send me an email. I’d love to discuss your thoughts and opinions on this issue.

English Major at Christopher Newport University || Editor-in-Chief for Her Campus @ CNU | Obstinate, headstrong girl | curly hair, don't care | Jesus & coffee & Jesus | insta:_thejewels Email: julianna.gonzalez.15@cnu.edu
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