Really, it should be “one of my stories” because there have been many times in my life that I have had to use the things we teach. But I would like to share with you, dear readers, a story about an experience I had just over a year ago in Costa Rica.
I was on a dream vacation. I spent a week in what could arguably be the most beautiful country in the world. It certainly is the happiest country I’ve ever been to. Through my week there, I went zip-lining and white water rafting, I saw volcanos and hiked waterfalls. It was glorious and for the last two days of my trip, I hung out at a super amazing beach resort in Manuel Antonio. The people of Costa Rica were amazingly friendly and it wasn’t until the last day of my trip that I had a not so pleasant experience with one of them…
I had talked briefly the day before to a local man who told me his name was Oscar. He was very kind and helped me find some beautiful seashells to take home. So when I saw him at the beach the next afternoon, I was excited to see a friendly face. I said hello and he hugged me, which didn’t feel awkward, but at the end of the hug, he pulled me back into him and kissed me on the cheek. It was uncomfortable and lingering, but I shrugged it off as a cultural thing. We started to walk down the beach talking but once we were out of the view of the security guard, he started touching me.
He was rubbing my arms and chest and he put his hands on my hips. All the while, he was talking to me in Spanish. Now, if he had been speaking English, I don’t think I would have hesitated, but my mind raced as I was trying to interpret what he was saying. I tried to think of how to get him off of me without making a scene on the beach. I started saying “Alto. No,” but he kept talking and I tried to understand what he was saying. I heard him say something about my white skin and how white skin was his favorite. He said something about white and black (referring to his darker skin) being beautiful together and suddenly, I realized that there was nothing to interpret or understand. This man was making me uncomfortable and touching me in a way that was inappropriate. So if there had to be a scene, there would be a scene. I found my voice and got louder saying “NO! ALTO!’ (meaning NO! STOP!). He backed off and I calmed down.
And here’s where my instinct kicked in, he told me to keep walking down the beach. He said that he was going to get a joint for us to smoke and a beer for me to drink (which is hilarious because I don’t do drugs or drink beer ever – what can I say? I’m a wine and cheese kinda gal). He told me that when I was back from down the beach, we would smoke and drink and touch. I finally just said ok so that he would leave (feigned compliance is a technique we often talk about in advanced self-defense classes). As I kept walking down the beach, I realized that he had cut off my only exit and was still watching me as I walked. If I stopped walking or turned around, he started towards me. I started trying to think of how I was going to get out of this mess.
Eventually, I noticed that he wasn’t there anymore. Without thinking twice, I took off running down the beach. I ran past the security guard. As I did, I saw Oscar there starting to follow me, but I just kept running and running back to my room. There I showered and cried because I had been so scared. But I was safe. It hadn’t been pretty and it didn’t feel good, but I had survived a potentially dangerous situation by using my voice and my brain.
When I think back on this situation, I remember that moment where my training took over; when I stopped overthinking the situation, trying to be nice, trying to give this guy the benefit of the doubt. Our society tells us to be kind, don’t make a scene, etc. And even with my advanced training, it took a few minutes before I could shut that out and focus on being safe. At times that has embarassed me. I’ve even had friends question why I didn’t react sooner or put him in his place the first second he started making me uncomfortable. But all-in-all, I know that I acted in a way that kept me from further harm. And I’m grateful for the training I used to keep this scary and potentially dangerous situation from going any further.
I know that many of us (or maybe even all of us) have stories like this. They are triumphs! If you have a story you’d like to share, please feel free to comment.