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April 7, 2014

Learning how to (actually) defend myself

As weird as it may sound, I have always had my own back. Growing up, I had bizarrely powerful convictions about standing up for myself – almost to a fault. 

If I felt I had been wronged by my older sister, I would shoot out a vengeful comeback that was far more insulting. In second grade, a boy named David threw a small tree branch at me on the playground after I beat him to a swing and I proceeded to calmly retort, “That didn’t hurt,” even though my hand was bleeding. Of course, I soon learned that this isn’t the most healthy of ways to stand up for oneself and, fortunately, I’ve grown out of that bad habit. But a recent incident reinforced something within myself that I have known, and worried about, for a long time: I don’t know how to stand up for myself physically.

It happened about a month ago. I had just turned my car off in the driveway of my Center City apartment and was opening my door when I heard a strange noise. It was a hiccup, I decided, but didn’t give it another thought. I got out of my car and started walking toward my apartment building in the dark, but froze halfway there when I discovered the source of the hiccups: a large, masculine shadow was standing still at the end of the driveway and, after seeing me freeze, started running toward me.

At 110 pounds and five-foot-three, I am hardly a force to be reckoned with. Whenever my roommates and I would watch scary movies in college, I would always reflect on what I would do in a similar situation. If I were ever to be accosted by a would-be kidnapper or psychopath, I would think, I would most likely just freeze in utter fear and soundlessly die of a heart attack on the spot. I really believed it, too.

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