Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Even as a woman, and a small one at that, I never felt defenseless. I felt (rightly or wrongly) that I had enough strength, lung and brain power to get myself out of risky situations.

That guy who reached for me on a dark street in Copenhagen? An elbow to the face without even breaking my stride. That guy who snatched my friend's bike one night on the USC campus? I gave chase and bellowed so loudly that half a dorm was after him in no time.

I have the kind of mind that prepares escape plans. As a kid I used to lie in bed and imagine what I'd do if a murderer came in my window. As an adult: What if a snatcher grabbed my purse? Or something happened to one of my nieces while I supervised them in the park? Or my nephew was floating face down in the pool? I always felt confident that I could handle these situations.

Now I am keenly aware of my vulnerability. I can't run. I can't swim. I can't carry a child. All I can do is yell (and if the bad guy holds still maybe bash him with my cane). I sometimes have the foolish delusion that because of my disability I am off-limits. But I know at this point the only real strategy I have is to count on the goodness of other people – not to threaten me in the first place, and to step in and help me if I need it.


  1. It's not easy trusting in our fellow humans but the lasting phrase from 'steetcar named desire' is "I've always relied on the kindness of strangers"- I am always touched by that in our cynical world. (keep your stick handy though!)
    love joe

  2. When I told a security guard that stewardesses on airplanes stow my cane in the overhead bin he said "a cane can be a weapon." Stunned, I paused and then explained that if I tried to lift my cane over ny head to hit someone I would fall over. I'm not sure he believed me. Poor balance is an invisible deficit that able-bodied can't relate to because they can't retrieve their memories of falling helplessly as a toddler. Yelling is still an option. I'd also try sitting down if attackers got their hands on me. If they told me to stand up I'd pull the stroke card. My fantasy is that strangers would be more likely to help if someone is trying to drag me on the ground.