All The Ways I Try Not to Get Murdered

Like most women, I’ve trained my whole life for this.

Ashley Cleland, M.Ed.
Aug 13 · 4 min read
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Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

A mechanic laughed at me as I fiddled with my keys, removing a single car key from my heavy, jingling key chain.

“Why don’t you just give us your whole key chain? That’s ridiculous,” he asked.

I replied, “I don’t know you. I’m not giving you my house or office key.”

His eyes widened as he said, “Ooooh… you must be one of those True Crime obsessed girls. I get it.”

Nope. He didn’t get it.

I’m only a little True Crime obsessed but I am completely a woman in the world.

My femininity has always put me in inherent danger.

It makes sense why he couldn’t relate. Privilege isn’t about what you have to endure but often what you don’t have to think about. For most men, they don’t have a full mental load of helpful suggestions and condescending life rules to stop from getting murdered.

If he thought removing a key from a key chain was a big deal, my mechanic’s brain would probably explode if he knew all the steps I take daily to keep myself safe.

A Not So Comprehensive List of All the Ways I Try Not to Get Murdered

To my mechanic, those who get it, and those who don’t, here’s a list.

I never unlock more than one car door at a time.
This one drives my husband crazy. Using the automatic car key, I will unlock the driver’s door first and get in before I unlock any other doors. He has to wait but I don’t want to get into a habit of unlocking a door so someone can climb in and murder me.

Upon getting into the car, I lock all doors and drive away immediately.
Again, don’t want anyone getting into my car and murdering me.

I learned how to escape from a trunk.
I was taught this in a self-defense class in college. If I’m ever kidnapped, I can escape from a trunk and not get murdered.

If I’m pulled over by police, I wait until I get to a highly visible, well-lit area.
I’ve written about how excessive force complaints against police are second only to sexual misconduct complaints. These disproportionately impact Black women, but I’m still careful. I know how sexual violence can escalate.

When I was single, I’d give out fake numbers or use an app number to avoid making a man angry by rejecting him.
After an experience of someone using my cell phone number to find my social media and address to stalk me, I started doing this. Apparently, I was ahead of the curve here. Jessica Valenti wrote a harrowing piece on ‘rejection killings’ that you can read here.

I never share my paddle or run tracker maps on social media.
Don’t want anyone memorizing my routes and murdering me.

When walking alone, I don’t wear headphones.
Gotta stay alert. Women who listen to music could get murdered.

When walking alone, I pick a well-lit, high traffic area.
I look for safety in numbers so I don’t get murdered.

I never walk at night, even in the summer when the night air might feel beautifully cool against my skin.
More crimes occur at night and I’ve been trained from a young age to fear a man jumping out of the bushes. I stick to sweating my butt off in the day and not getting murdered.

I always carry a cell phone and communicate my schedule to my family.
Even when I’m paddling on the water, I have my cell phone. I don’t want to not be able to call for help and then get murdered.

And one thousand other things, every day, taking up space in my brain, my heart, and my habits.

And yet, my rules still don’t protect me from the biggest threats in my life.

Here’s the problem, though. I’ve been socialized by media and every prominent adult in my life to protect myself from strangers. The data tells a different story.

The person who is statistically the most dangerous is my husband.

Nearly half of all murdered women are murdered by their romantic partners. Strangers do commit violent crimes but most of the time, it is someone you know and often the person you should know the most.

None of my rules would protect me from him. (Fortunately, he’s a great man. Don’t worry about me, please.)

Outside of murder, other crimes that disproportionately harm women like sexual violence and human trafficking are primarily perpetrated by the people we know, not strangers.

Still, our culture and our viral social media posts center our ‘helpful advice’ on how not to get murdered, assaulted, or kidnapped by strangers.

We don’t need 1000 rules to stop us from getting murdered.

We need a culture change.

We need people protecting us not from strangers but from your problematic uncle, from your inappropriate fraternity brother, from your sexist boss.

We need education about intimate partner violence and avenues for survivors of all genders (and their children and pets) to get out.

We need to recognize that the biggest threat is within our homes, our communities, and workplaces. Its time to address this problem head on, work toward a solution, and build a world where can breathe easy and throw the rules out the window.

Let’s create a world together where we can run in the cool, summer night air.

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Fearless She Wrote

This is a space to empower differences, tell our stories…

Ashley Cleland, M.Ed.

Written by

Educator & Writer. Empowered Career Coach. Passionate about feminist leadership & trauma-informed practice. Let’s chat → ashleyharzog@gmail.com *Views my own*

Fearless She Wrote

This is a space to empower differences, tell our stories, and share our lives together. We will not be silenced. We will be fearless. And we will write.

Ashley Cleland, M.Ed.

Written by

Educator & Writer. Empowered Career Coach. Passionate about feminist leadership & trauma-informed practice. Let’s chat → ashleyharzog@gmail.com *Views my own*

Fearless She Wrote

This is a space to empower differences, tell our stories, and share our lives together. We will not be silenced. We will be fearless. And we will write.

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