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.