Saturday Night Live‘s recent sketch called “Welcome to Hell” could not be more accurate. If you’re surprised at just how common sexual predators are at home, in an actor’s studio, in the boardroom, at a party, then you either don’t exist or you’re a man.
Women have long adjusted their lives to the fact that rapists and sexual predators exist. Rather than living in an environment that lets these criminals think twice before doing what they want, women always have to second guess their safety.
It’s not even victim-shaming I am talking about here. It’s the rape schedule: “the ways in which women alter their daily lives in order to limit their chances of sexual assault.” It’s the very subtle ways women are equipped to protect themselves. I bet you don’t notice it even, it’s almost second nature. At night, I call my sister at least two minutes before the car gets to my house so she can open the gate. Why? I don’t want to ring the bell and wait for her to come. It’s the perfect time for someone to come and harm me.
Dark alleys are a no-no unless you’re walking in a group. I’ve delayed plans to make sure a male companion can be with me during nights out. We’ve even developed tracker apps to alert loved ones if we feel unsafe and even straws to detect date-rape drugs.
My mother always reminds me to bring a jacket especially when I wear something sleeveless. Sure, it’s because I might get cold but she also made it clear it’s for something else.
I received compliments on the extra steel legs found at the bottom of my bag because I can use it as a weapon. I’ve seen women walk around waving their big umbrellas in an exaggerated fashion. In the morning, I time my jogging so there’s some sunlight in my path. Sometimes, the first toys given to young girls are whistles to remind them to make noise if they feel threatened.
Of course, there is such a thing as being cautious and erring on the safe side. But for women, the way we observe safety is doubled, if not tripled. This is how our sole responsibility to make sure we don’t get raped is emphasized. There should be no flaw or fault that people can pin on us. The painful part? We will still be blamed whatever happens most of the time.
Still, we will continue to teach women to follow the schedule: carry some pepper spray, limit private interactions with males unless in a group or in a public area, giving our girl offspring a curfew while their brothers come home whenever they please. We make sure that we don’t give men any signals for him to claim as an invite. That’s why there are still a lot of women who walk with their eyes downward.
It’s hard to live outside the rape schedule. And some of you may think it’s not real. Just evaluate your day or ask the precautions a girl friend takes and compare it to one of your male pals. You’ll see the difference is terrifying.
Art by Lara Intong