When Pete and I lived in our last apartment there was a beautiful wooded park nearby with tons of running and biking trails, and I ran there a couple times a week throughout the spring, summer and fall. All summer I’d get up at 6:00, get into my running clothes and head out for about 40 minutes to start the day. Sometimes I would take a route through town and other times I’d head for the park. It was a nice place to run – lots of birds, squirrels, people walking dogs, people pushing baby strollers, joggers and bikers. Other days I’d run after work or in the evenings before dark and it was always the same – busy, yet quiet.
I never felt out of ease there except once in a while I’d see a shady looking character near where the park came close to the highway. Like, why would a man be out walking in the park in jeans at 6:30 in the morning? He didn’t look like a typical exerciser and always seemed a little disheveled and weird, like he might be on something. He was also very starey. I’d stare back at him. “Make eye contact and appear to be assertive and bold”, is what you always read about how to deal when you feel threatened by someone’s presense.
I’d turn around sometimes and he’d be looking back in my direction. I’d just pick up the pace. I never worried too much. After all, the park was busy and full of people and seconds later a biker would whizz by or a man would be walking a black lab within sight. And by the time I looped back on my way home, the weird guy would be gone, or I’d see him on his way out of the park.
We moved out of the apartment last July and I had my last run in the park and thought the whole time about how I’d miss it and how I’d never find as nice a running trail in our new neighbourhood (and I was right).
On Sunday, a 19-year-old female jogger was sexually assaulted in the park at 9:00 p.m. She ran past him, he grabbed her from behind and pulled her into the trees. When I heard that news I felt like puking. I have been in that park alone more times than I can count, with my iPod on, probably at 9:00 p.m. or even later. I never had any way of defending myself and never worried about it. I never considered that things like that would happen in a park so close to home on a sunny day when people are just going around walking their dogs and riding their bikes. It makes me feel stupid and naive and scared and sick.
I hate that shit like this happens. I hate that there are a handful of assholes out there ruining things for everyone. I hate that this girl’s life will never be the same again. I hate that whoever this creep is he’ll probably be 100% free and clear and may even do it again. I hate that people will now be scared to use the park. I hate that I am now scared to go to a park alone. I hate worrying that every somewhat “off” man I encounter is a potential rapist. I hate prejudging people like that and I hate that I have to.
It really sucks that you can’t go for a goddamn jog without having to fear for your life.
What is the point of this post other than to vent? To remind people to always tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back? To warn against jogging by yourself in parks? I don’t even know. I feel frustrated and helpless.