I woke up this morning screaming.
More accurately, I was woken from a dream in which I was screaming by my husband’s gentle voice telling me, “it’s okay, you’re okay.” (He told me later that I sounded really afraid.)
Hours later, I still remember the dream, something that usually doesn’t last. I won’t call it a nightmare since I wasn’t unsettled once awake. I also think I know what provoked it.
I was walking through what I recognized as some sort of a multi-level shopping mall. At some point, I turned down a brightly lit corridor, absent any doors or windows. I also became aware of a man following me.
He was tall, thin, and dressed in all black. The more urgently I tried to get away from him, the faster he came after me. The screaming started when he eventually caught me.
The screams in my dreams, and possibly in my waking state, weren’t high-pitched and shrill like they should be. They were guttural and muted.
Once awake, I was more surprised than disturbed. I was even able to fall back asleep without returning to the scene.
I’m in no way a dream interrupter, but I am pretty sure I know what it all meant. The bright hallway without any way to escape was my neighborhood. The assailant was any potentially dangerous stranger.
For the past several months, I’ve been taking daily walks around my neighborhood. I live in a quiet town, a safe town, but still, I’m constantly on alert. Watching the other people out walking, or running, riding bikes, even those driving down the streets.
Maybe it’s extreme, but most women I know are hypervigilant when they are anywhere alone – day or night.
When I’m out walking, I run scenarios in my head about what I would do if someone tried to grab me. I look for things I could use as weapons, places where I could escape, houses with people close enough to help.
If I yelled, would anyone hear me?
I live in a suburban community. There are many neighborhoods, but there are also dense wooded areas. Could I actually scream loud enough to draw attention to my predicament?
Yelling no problem, talking loudly… sure, but really scream? Scream like my life depends on it?
Women, in general, are discouraged from being loud. We should use our inside voices, not draw attention to ourselves.
For years, I trained in martial arts. I still believe, if tested, I could hold my own, maybe even fight off an attacker. The one thing we didn’t train for is screaming. Could I really be loud enough to save myself – full-voiced, from deep down in my very soul, eardrum-shattering scream? I’m honestly not sure.
I should be. There should be places where women can go to practice using our outside voices.