Why I Look Over My Shoulder Every 45 Seconds

Guest Post by Maddi Burns


Because you might be there.

You could be a rapist. You could be an assaulter. You could be an attacker. I might know you, I might not. You might be under the influence of something, you might not. You are why I am so cautious, so afraid to walk alone, so scared that something is going to happen. You are why I don’t trust strangers, why I lock my door every night, why I move to the other side of the street when I see you coming. You are what nightmares are made of, except that its real life. You are who I suspect in every person on the street, you are who self defense classes are made against, you are who is heard about on the news, you are horrible stories happening to girls just like me. You are the reason I look over my shoulder every 45 seconds.

1 second. I look over my shoulder on instinct, taking in my surroundings and making note of the other people walking around, the cars that are pulling onto the road, or the bikers crossing the street. You could be there, lingering behind a building or thinking about me as your next victim. You might be lurking around every corner, waiting for an opportunity to grab someone like me.

5 seconds. I wear my hair down, knowing in the back of my mind that it is a lot easier for a perpetrator like you to grab a ponytail, taking away precious seconds and energy to run away or fight back. It gives you an advantage and that’s all the reason you need to go for me. My hairstyle is one of the most important things to you—such sensitivity you have to it.

10 seconds. Even when its not raining, I’m carrying an umbrella because an attacker like you is a lot less likely to go for someone like me who has a weapon of that size. It means I can hold you back without ever touching you, something that keys will not do.

15 seconds. I am on the phone with someone–my mom, dad, sibling. I will have someone there in case something happens and to yell out as many details as I can about you in the few seconds I have. I also will not be focused on my phone, giving you a way to catch me off guard because I am not fully aware of my environment. You look for me to be distracted, hoping to come out of nowhere and blindside me.

20 seconds. I walk on the inside of the sidewalk, closest to buildings, that way if a car pulls up next me with you right inside I would a few extra feet of space. But what if you come from the inside–from a building or alleyway? My adrenaline would start pumping, heart racing, and hands sweating. I don’t ever know exactly where you’ll be so I walk in the light when its dark out. I look confident and act like I know where I’m going, even if I don’t. Chin up buttercup, I tell myself, as I look for any signs that you are on the prowl.

25 seconds. I’m small. I’m an easy target. My best effort is to run to safety, and if I’m caught, I know after the initial hit to go for your groin. If it’s an attack from behind, pinch and pull as hard as I can on your arm muscles, while basically throwing a tantrum and slugging my body as close to the ground as I can. I am using my own weight and gravity, while you’re using all the strength you have, to lift up my limp body, with flailing arms and kicking legs. Watch your thighs, I have a pen in my pocket.

30 seconds. Dress in layers. Rapists like you want someone whose clothes can be cut off easily, minimizing time, and decreasing the chance of being caught. You aim to get me to a second location where you can finish what you started. I can’t let you get me that far, I can’t let you take me there.

35 seconds. I’m walking to my car. I check the underside, I check the backseats, I carefully check the cars on both sides of mine. I wait for other people to be walking by, witnesses. I am most likely to be abducted by you in a parking lot. Then a parking garage. Then a public restroom. The most likely time of an attack from you is early-between 5 and 8 am. I must be wary when running, shopping, or leaving in the morning.

40 seconds. I am going to have to get in your face and ask you a question. I am going to have my hand on my pepper spray in my pocket, ready to pull it out, and yell at you. I need to see your face; I need to be able to point you out in a lineup. I am showing you that I will fight back, that I will not be as easy a target as you thought.

45 seconds. I look over my shoulder. Because you might be there.

I’ve never felt unsafe on my college campus. I’ve never had any incidences or been scared. But I am aware of my surroundings and I do take extra measures to ensure my safety. I do look over my shoulder every 45 seconds. I do wear my hair down. I do have pepper spray. Just because I have felt safe, doesn’t mean it is safe. I make choices everyday in order to keep myself safe. I don’t walk alone at night. I don’t leave campus to run in the morning. I don’t hop right into my car when I am finished shopping. I know that my safety is not guaranteed anywhere at any time. So I do my best to look out for myself, to know the facts, to protect myself. I am informed and educated, I read articles and stories, I analyze what I might do in certain situations. This is how I feel I have to live. This is how I feel I need to act in order to stay as safe as I can on my campus. It’s a scary world out there–I need to be aware and attentive. I need to be concerned and alert. I need to be smart in order to be safe.

You might be there.

This is why I look over my shoulder every 45 seconds.


I would like to give a quick thank you to my talented writer friend who did this guest post for me today. Maddi Burns also writes for the Odyssey Online.



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