Why self-awareness could save your life

Many people don’t know that I was the victim of an attempted sexual assault many years ago. I was in my first year of Paramedic school when I was attacked in the elevator of my apartment building. That puts me at about 27 years old when my confidence in the world changed. I wasn’t afraid of much before that day came.

I was living on my own in a cute little apartment, which was walking distance to work. It had security measures in place, and included underground parking. I felt safe there. I always parked in the underground parking, but on this particular day I had been out running errands , and I parked out in front of the building because I wanted to run in quickly to grab my laundry to take to my parents. My building didn’t have laundry facilities, so it was a regular routine of mine to take it out to my parents and spend some time there while I did a few loads. My building had double doors requiring someone on the inside to either have a key or buzz you in. When I entered the building, I used my keys to get into the lobby and a young man came out from the stairwell door(which led into the area you need to be buzzed in) and he snuck in behind me before the door closed to the lobby. I remember being puzzled, and not having a chance to tell him that he needed to be buzzed in, however, because he had just come down via the stairwell I figured he must of forgotten something upstairs from wherever he just came from. (the stairwell is locked and requires access from another floor). He also looked young and so as a result, I wasn’t immediately worried.

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As I stood at the elevator waiting for it to come, I remember I felt it. I felt intuition. Something wasn’t right. Every hair on my body was standing up. I remember glancing sideways at him while he waited with me, and then I remember telling myself to relax, he is just a kid. No big deal. As much as everything in my body was sensing something was wrong, I didn’t listen. The door dinged and I walked in with him. I remember pushing my floor button right away, #10. He hesitated and hovered around the buttons, and then randomly hit a number. At this point, my body was on full alert. I actually remember looking sideways at him again, seeing if he had a knife or a weapon. I had never in my life EVER thought this of anyone, but I did that day. I took a step back, and when the elevator doors closed and lurched upwards, he sprung at me. I had a hot chocolate in my hand, and I remember it went everywhere. I remember being totally confused and shocked at what was going on. I remember most of all how quiet I was. I managed to sputter out,” What are you doing”?? I won’t get into the details of what he tried to do to me, but I managed to keep shoving him off me and prevented anything from seriously happening. When the elevator hit the floor that he had pushed the button for, he sprung off me and took off running. In a panic, while crying, I shut the doors and tried to get to my floor as fast as possible. I remember being two old ladies waiting for the elevator when I got off and they must of been shocked at my appearance. I took off running to my apartment and called my mom, followed by 911.

What I remember most, was crying for hours afterwards in terror while waiting for the police to come, and wondering why all the things I thought I would do if I was ever attacked, failed to happen. I didn’t scream for help. I barely said a word. I didn’t swing for the areas that would hurt him, I just tried to keep him away. I was always a tough cookie, but my body just reacted totally different then I ever thought it would. I struggled to know why. The reality is, I did nothing wrong that day. I saved myself, but it taught me that I didn’t react the way I thought I would, which made me feel less safe.

It turned out, I was the man’s second victim that day. When he came running down the staircase, he had just done the same thing to another women that he had followed home from a local mall. He followed her into the building, into the elevator, assaulted her, took off running down the stairs, saw me, and did it all over again. Bold. When I called police the following day after waiting all night for them to take my statement, they said they had already seen me. I assured them that they had not. The police then realized that there had been two victims in the same building minutes apart, and that they didn’t connect the incidents. Luckily, I had phoned the landlord right after it happened and asked him to save the camera footage and give it over to the police.

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I was brought down to the police station to identify the man after a police officer viewing the footage was able to recognize him as a previous offender. I was given a lineup of people to go through, and I was again shocked at how little I knew about this guy. I was able to pick him out, but I couldn’t believe how un-observant I really was. This bothered me. I chose not to go to court, and instead wrote a victim impact statement while asking for a restraining order and the maximum penalty. He was a juvenile, and I knew he wouldn’t be sent away for a long time, but he was also a repeat offender, with his crimes escalating, and that was terrifying to hear. I knew the court needed to put him someplace safe, and hopefully with some sort of rehabilitation program to prevent any further crimes. I couldn’t handle seeing him again, and I didn’t want him to have a reason to remember me visually. So I didn’t go.

After this happened, I developed a fear of being alone. I was unable to ride in elevators with men. This made being a paramedic student challenging at the time, because I had to repeatedly get into elevators right after this happened, while trying to keep my anxiety from showing. It also affected my walking to work. It stopped. I would drive to work now out of fear I would run into the assailant. I would run from my car to the elevator and panic while I waited, hoping I wouldn’t have to get in with anyone. If a man was already in there, or waiting to go in, I would stop and tie my shoe, or do something to avoid going in. I would run from my car into buildings, and stopped wanting to be alone period. That man, took away my independence, my confidence, and trust.

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However, the one thing I gained from him, was that I learned I had intuition. Every part of my body lit up. I felt it, I knew it, but didn’t listen to it. At that point I never had a reason too. I had trust in all. It however, has made me realize that it exists, and I will never ignore it again. If I don’t feel right, I won’t do it. I will wait as long as it takes to get myself into a situation that my radar doesn’t go off. I implore you to realize, intuition is real. Follow it. Respect it. You will thank me for it.

I also learned to be more observant of my surroundings. I look at people’s faces now. I look at what they are wearing. I study their body languages, and make sure that I always have an exit. (something also learned in paramedic school). I don’t bury myself in my phone, or move through life when I don’t know what is happening around me. In public, I am not distracted.

In a world of technology we are losing this ability to be self-aware, and with that I worry that we are going to lose the ability to recognize our intuition. The ability to recognize when something isn’t right and to change it before it affects you negatively. I am writing this to urge you to open your eyes, know your surroundings, see your surroundings, and stay safe. Pay attention to how you feel, or how someone or something makes you feel. Who cares if you look stupid waiting for an elevator over and over, it just takes one time to get attacked in one. I can tell you from experience, being attacked in an elevator was one of the scariest places to be attacked, because I had no way out. So if you have to take a different way home, or wait a few extra minutes to walk to your car or go down a different aisle at the store, because you get a weird vibe, just do it. It could save your life.

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