Two weeks ago, I was attacked on my way home from a bar. We had a few drinks because a friend was leaving, and I made the silly decision to walk the last 200 meters home alone. It was about 2:30am, and I remember, saying bye to my friend.. and regretting it instantly. I had only gone a few meters before I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up - I felt like I was being watched, spotted. Like a deer in the woods. I pulled it together and walked a little faster, hoping I was being hit by mere paranoia. I wasn't drunk, I wasn't even tipsy, but at this point I felt dizzy. I looked around and didn't see anyone, so I just kept on walking, hoping the feeling would subside, praying my mind was playing tricks on me. Then I heard footsteps. Hurried steps, like someone couldn't wait to reach their destination. I looked over my shoulder, terrified of what I might see. A shadow was moving towards me. My instinct kept telling me to run, as I turned the corner into a dark alley. But it was as if my legs wouldn't carry me. My legs felt soft, like a hindrance, like I couldn't lift them, heavy with fear. Blinded by my tunnel vision, I found myself maybe 30, 20 meters away from my house. I kept on walking, but my curiosity prompted me too check what was behind me again, although I really didn't want to know. About a meter away from me, a man was walking as fast as he could manage. I am convinced he saw the fear in my eyes, as I looked at his face, desperately trying to remember what he looked like, and preparing myself for the worst. He looked me right in the eyes and said, in a forced friendly tone: "Hello, how are you?" before I felt something at the back of my head and realized that this mans intentions were all but friendly. He threw his fist into the left side of my head and hit me on the ear, leaving me breathlessly screaming in shock - my instincts kicked in and I threw my own fist towards him and hit him on the cheek. He yanked at my hair and I stumbled, almost losing my balance and in the faint light, I saw something shimmer and realized he was holding a knife to my side. My blind fury must have taken over because at this point I don't know what exactly happened next, all that I could think of was that there was no way I would allow myself to become a victim without everyone in the neighborhood hearing me. I screamed as loud as my lungs would allow me to, cursing him and shoving my hands in his face in an effort to not give him a chance to get anywhere near my body. He hit me in the head repeatedly, seemingly hell-bent on knocking me unconscious. At some point I must have struggled with him pretty hard, because later on, I discovered I was holding his broken watch in my hands. I would not go down without a fight, knife or no knife. I wanted to tell him to take my bag, to take everything, but he showed such little interest in my belongings, that I had even forgotten it was there. Eventually, he must have decided I was causing too much of a scene, and he fled, after he had cut the strap off my bag and given me another shove, finally knocking me down. I got up and stood there, as stunned as I was pissed off and it wasn't until then I realized what had actually happened. I remembered the knife and how close it came to being jammed into my side and I broke down. I was on my knees when I noticed another man standing near me, nonchalantly looking at his cell phone and as I begged him for help, he seemed to look right through me and kept on walking. Everything around me seemed to turn dark and I felt myself going numb, not knowing what to do next. I heard a window open and a familiar voice call out asking me if I was OK, and I managed a weak "I was mugged" and buried my face in my hands, falling apart by the second. I felt naked, vulnerable and drained. I cried.
The next day at the police station, as I was giving my statement, a police officer who was listening, approached me and said, my case sounded very much like a case they had in January. It was an attempted rape, and the girl managed to get away, but not before being beaten to a pulp and struggling to keep her clothes on. She walked into the police station without her undergarments on, bleeding and scared to death. The man had also greeted her before he physically assaulted her. And it happened in the exact same place; 20 meters away from my house. No guard came to her rescue, and if anyone heard her, they turned a deaf ear to her screaming.
Today I heard about a girl who showed up at one of our kite schools, naked. The story circulating is that she was drunk, and had been attacked by 5 men and raped.
I know this blog is supposed to be about all things pretty, but I want to get real. This could happen to anyone, anywhere. Two weeks later, and I still struggle to find my strength to do the everyday things. When I walk in the dark and a figure comes near me, It is enough to make me want to start running. And when a stranger greets me on the streets, I start shaking, amidst flashbacks of what happened on that night. I hate having to admit feeling weak, but I don't know what else to do. If my speaking out about this matter can bring awareness and therefore protect others from becoming victims, then I will tell my story. Do not walk home by yourself at night, especially after you have been drinking. No matter how familiar a path is to you, you can never be too careful. Carry mace in your hand, as you are walking, and avoid carrying valuables in your bag. If you see a street in your neighborhood that is dimly lit, speak to someone who can do something to change that. Make noise, start a movement. Fight back. Too many people turn a blind eye thinking "What difference does it make?" It makes me sick to my stomach. Why wait until you yourself or someone close to you becomes a victim? Use the voice you were given.
In two days I will be back home. "Dread" doesn't even begin to describe how I feel about that.
Photos by Denise Tolentino, taken days prior to said night.