joreth: (boxed in)
This is your occasional reminder that I have actually had to pull my knife on a man 3 times in my life, since I started carrying one.

Assault, harassment, and intimidation are regular, "normal" parts of most women's lives, and definitely a part of mine. In absolutely none of the cases where I had to pull a knife out and brandish it was I "dressed for it" or "asking for it" or "sending mixed signals".

In all 3 cases, it was actually after work and I was wearing my military cargo pants and steel toe boots with no makeup or attempt at hair styling. I was in a casino lounge with my other coworkers, minding our own business and not interacting with any other patrons, at a party at a friend's house in a conversation with my ex (who was not the one I pulled the knife on), and at a gas station working on my car.

There are *lots* of times when, in retrospect, I should have pulled a knife on a date or a "friend", but because they were not strangers, I just kept giving them the benefit of the doubt and trying to find non-violent ways out of the situation. I even remained "friends" with many of them or continued to date them long after the fact (or while the behaviour was ongoing).

Being attacked by strangers, while common, happens less often than being assaulted by "friends" and partners. Had I pulled a knife on someone I had some kind of relationship with, I guarantee you that I would have been accused of "overreacting" or of being the aggressor or the "assaulter" for having escalated it to violence with a weapon. We are taught to fear Stranger Danger when the worst of our danger comes from intimates.

But, the thing is, it has *never* occurred to me to pull a weapon on a partner or a "friend". Because each and every time, the severity of the assault is not fully recognized until afterwards, when I've had time to see that my brain won't stop replaying the incident and I'm getting more and more upset over it, since I couldn't afford to react in the moment or else risk escalating something, namely his wrath.

My instinctual response is to freeze, make myself smaller, and smile to placate him into thinking it's not a big deal so that he doesn't get angry at me. The last time I actively fought back against a "friend" who was assaulting me, I got my shoulder dislocated for the effort. I have not fought back since then (I think I was 14?). I go very still instead.

When my ex-fiance used to sexually assault me at night by touching my genitals when he thought I was asleep, if I would get pissed off at him and try to leave the room to go sleep on the couch, as I was attempting to get out of bed, he would tell me that if I left right then, my precious figurine collection (which I loved dearly, almost everything in that collection was a gift) would be damaged.

I know now that this is a clear cut case of abuse, but that's not something I knew back then and I'm not entirely sure that, had I been told, I would have recognized it as abuse while I was going through it. He never once laid a hand on me in anger, or threatened to, and I never feared that he would. *That* was something I would recognize as abuse. But not the sexual assault and not the threat of property damage.

It would never have occurred to me to respond with violence to someone who was not being violent towards me, particularly with someone I loved. Partner abuse is a much more complex and insidious thing than stranger assaults.

And I have had enough of both that I have pulled a knife in self-defense 3 times so far. I'm lucky none of them had a gun.

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