Women are tired of feeling so afraid

Her name is Wynona or maybe Winona. I don’t know, she didn’t leave a spelling or a number. I do know she speaks for me. She took all my anger, put it in a phone message, and asked in a defiant tone, "How about an article about that?"

Here’s that article, Wynona. You wrote it, as angrily as I could. You spoke for the 14-year-old victim of a barbarous attack. You spoke for that poor girl and for all women when you picked up your telephone and left these thoughts:

"I’m reading the front page about that attack on that teen-age girl, and I do see the safety tips. It’s always ‘don’t walk alone in the dark, in isolated or wooded areas, pick a high-traffic area that’s well lit.’

"How about an article about how sick we women are about having to worry about being alone? … We’re not allowed to like isolation, or enjoy a quiet walk on our own, because we have to be afraid. We’re in a prison. I’m mad as hell because I love to walk. I still walk, but I’m sick of realizing that I’m risking my life because I want to take a walk on a quiet street."

There was rage in Wynona’s voice, the same fury I felt Tuesday when I planned to lace up my walking shoes and take a solo trek on the Interurban Trail. Reclaiming the site of Monday’s brutal stabbing seemed the right thing to do, the only thing that would take away a sickening sense of powerlessness.

I didn’t take that walk. When I went to work and heard Wynona’s message, I knew I wouldn’t need to hike the Interurban Trail to write about every sensation the caller described.

In the summer of 1978, I was an intern at The Herald. I had finished college and was living in Seattle’s University District.

Every night after work, I ran. I’d go before dark. I’d go alone. I’d shake off the office confinement and new-job jitters. I’d sleep better. I’d think better. I needed that run.

My route took me along the Burke-Gilman Trail between the university and Gasworks Park. One August night about 8:30, I had slowed to a walk when a young man came up alongside me and asked, "Do you know what time it is?"

I knew I was in trouble, instantly and instinctively. A big hand grabbed my wrist. All in the same moment, I scratched at the man with my free hand, screamed an obscenity and took off running faster than I ever knew I could.

I never looked back, never saw where he went and never stopped running until my shaking hand rammed a key into my apartment door. Once inside, I cleaned his clawed-off skin from under my fingernails. I called police. They listened, but that was it.

I never ran again until I moved to Pendleton, Ore., later that year.

Unquestionably, I was luckier than a Cascade High freshman who set out for school Monday. But how lucky is any woman, really? Women hurry to their cars, get on elevators, walk their pets, even go on dates with a nagging voice that whispers, "Is this the day your luck runs out?"

We’re furious about it, furious.

I won’t stay inside. With a nonstop job and three kids at home, I still need that run. I need to move, and I need to think. So I go.

Early mornings, late nights, those are the hours busy women have. I run at night, right down the middle of the street, with my black Lab at my side. The run clears my head.

One small corner of my head is never completely clear, the corner that worries about the creeps out there.

Wynona thinks about creeps, too. Still with fire in her voice, the caller asked:

"What are the lawmakers doing to get these creeps not only off the street in the first place, but to keep them off the streets? Stop letting them out to hurt again. Lawmakers need to start doing something about it, to stop women from having to live in fear all the time.

"How about an article about that?"

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