Real Life Creepers and Gender Roles

There are certain risk associated with living alone, especially living alone on a ground floor. I learned that lesson around this time last year, when my area flooded. At 6:30 in the morning, I awoke to find the water was already half way up my car tires and that my apartment complex had become an island. My roommate’s girlfriend took the canoe to the gas station in search of alcohol (since we and our cars were stranded).

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The other apparent risk of living in a ground level apartment is creepers.

Last Thursday’s events lasted only five minutes. I awoke to find a man in a hooded sweatshirt straining to look through my blinds into my bedroom. After he noticed me, he tried to hide before popping up to look through again. I contacted the police and my landlord. The situation has been handled.

I felt violated and couldn’t help but wonder if the guy was just messing around, was after me or was after my stuff. Either way, it was a slap in the face that reminded me of the kind of world we live in.

I’m very passionate about human rights and love to debate solutions to the world’s problems. As a woman, it goes without saying that I have particular interest in gender equality. While this is something I want, it’s not something that exist in any kind of perfect state. While I may be able to live on my own, have a career and vote, there are still people out there who consider me inferior because of my gender.

One of the options I considered for Thursday night was having my boyfriend sleep over in the hopes the presence of a man would deter any malicious intent. In thinking that, I had to admit that this world is more likely to respect my apartment, possessions and person if I associate it all with a man.

My weakness does not come from my gender. If I had the time and motivation to go to the gym and learn how to fight, I could hold my own in a fight just as much as a man. I could learn the differences in fighting someone larger than me and someone smaller than me. My gender does not stop me from defending myself as much as my daily choices do.

A man’s strength and ability to defend himself doesn’t come from his gender either. Just like my ability, his comes from the personal fitness choices he makes on a daily basis. It just so happens that men are more likely to be involved in activities that provide them fighting skills.

Thursday was a lesson in how the world views masculinity and femininity. The first reaction most of my friends had was to insist I not spend that night at my place for my own protection. The second most popular solution involved D spending the night. Hypothetically, let’s say I went with that second option. What would have happened if his presence didn’t deter an assault? What would people say if he failed to protect me or got seriously hurt trying to keep me safe?

I bet that, if he failed to protect me, a lot of blame would be put on him. He’d probably feel guilty, not just because he couldn’t protect me but because a ‘real man’ should be able to protect his lover. If he was able to protect me, but was hurt in the process, likely most would feel like he did his duty. While it would be sad that he was hurt, most people would feel like he did what was right.

The world changes slowly. I wonder if, had been male, my friends would have been so insistent that I not spend Thursday night in my apartment. Instead, would they have given me tips on how to fend off a thief or assailant?

I’m not trying to claim any reaction to my creeper is right or wrong (except for the creeper. He was definitely in the wrong). Everyone provided me solid advice based on surviving the world we live in. I can discuss how men and women are viewed in this world in the hopes of slowly changing public opinion to a more equal view of the genders, but that action does not protect me in the moment.Thursday made that abundantly clear.

Even if we lived in a world with perfect gender equality, there would still be crime. People would still be assaulted. Living as I do wouldn’t be any more or less of a risk than it is today. Promoting change and working toward a better future is important, but we still need to know how to protect ourselves today.

Would you ever live on a ground floor apartment? What’s the scariest thing that has ever happened to you while living alone? Do you think men and women are given different advice about how to protect themselves?

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48 thoughts on “Real Life Creepers and Gender Roles”

  1. As a man, and a larger than average one at that, I rarely feel threatened in any situation, despite the fact that I haven’t been in an actual fistfight since grade school.
    I live on a ground floor apartment, but my complex is gated very strictly AND (more importantly, imo) is almost a mile off the main road. Makes stragglers much rarer. Nonetheless, I do keep a baseball bat in my bedroom for beatdown purposes if anyone came in.
    In your scenario, it seems unlikely that your creeper was looking in because you are a woman. Much more likely that he was looking for someplace to rob, and happened to discover that you are one.

    1. I have my doubts he knew I was a woman before he looked in at me as well. I felt like, having discovered I was a woman living alone, he might be even more inclined to rob me.

      I need to buy a baseball bat.

  2. First, that’s great post, in Europe is a little different then US and even some women are presidents of countries. Second, yes, I’m a male but I live on a ground floor apartment and there is a little advance of it and that is about earthquakes so you can escape safely. For other things, there is no big difference is it 15th or first floor. That’s my opinion.

    1. There are a lot of other reasons to avoid bottom floors. I feel like I get more insects in my place just because I’m at ground level. If anything happens to the plumbing of apartments above me, I’m always going to be affected. It’s just no fun.

  3. Dude! You seem so laid back about it all…..I don’t know what to say other that I’m impressed with how calm you reacted to the situation. I love the picture u posted 🙂

    1. I wasn’t though. Nothing changed the fact I still had to act like a normal human being for the rest of the day. I don’t usually show signs of stress verbally. I internalize it all.

  4. That’s a frightening thing to have happened. What bothers me more though is that if either you or your boyfriend had needed (and chosen) to defend yourself against an attack you could have been charged with assault! That makes it very difficult to deal with situations like yours. I’m glad everything worked out and you weren’t hurt.

        1. I have heard that the way laws are written in some states, you have to try to run away. If you could have escaped but instead chose to stand your ground and attacked the person, then you could face a lawsuit yourself. Although, I think if the assailant attacks you first, then it’s self defense. It is stupid because you should be able to defend yourself and your property. What the law is really try to judge is the difference between a random person and an attacker. It shouldn’t be legal to shoot someone just because they are on your property.

          I’m not saying the way the law is is right. I just understand the difficulty.

  5. That is creepy. Having our privacy or our homes violated is terrible, and no amount of having someone sleep over can cover every moment. You’re right that having someone sleep over isn’t an insurance policy against someone who is desperate. Maybe a big dog…

    On the other hand, spouses help each other feel safer all the time. My hubby and I share the work, joy and danger of life. That’s one reason to have a partner.

    1. I’m sure I would have felt safer had my boyfriend stayed over, but I felt even safer not being there at all. My boyfriend was already planning on hanging out at my place for the weekend, so it all worked out. I always feel safer around him just because of his companionship.

  6. I had a very similar thing happen to me some years ago. I lived in a ground floor apartment with bars on the windows – real sucky neighborhood – and one day I heard men walking by my windows, talking loudly. At the rear of the building, mind you, not the street side. Next thing I knew, my window had been smashed and I heard laughing – laughing! Of course I was terrified, because bars on the windows don’t do much if the window’s broken and you can reach right in and unhook them, so I called 911 and while I was on the phone with them the men (thankfully) left. I had a similar experience many years ago when I was living in my car (long story) and woke up to find a man trying to break in – with me sleeping right there!

    I am definitely aware of the difference between being a man and being a woman confronted with these types of situations. But the men who smashed my window probably didn’t even know who lived there – they were just being jerks. Equal opportunity jerks. And I do feel it’s important for women, if we want to be treated like equals, to act like equals. But that doesn’t necessarily mean learning to fight back in a physical sense; it’s more about making smart choices. It’s up to me to decide what reaction best serves my needs. And if I don’t want to have to feel dependent on a man for my physical safety, I have to come up with other ways of ensuring it.

    1. Exactly. It’s why every women. nay, every person, should have some way of protecting themselves. At any given time, any of us could be put in a threatening situation and there won’t always be someone there to save you.

  7. I don’t live on the ground floor, however I do live in the “ghetto” and my windows lead out to the roof top of the business I live above. Often we catch people out there during the summer smoking and such. Within the first few months of living there we had a scare of someone running by our windows and banging on them. My father came out immediately and installed an alarm system for us. My coworkers insisted that I learn to use a gun and register, but I really don’t believe I could go there, I’d rather get a taser. I don’t see how living on a ground floor is all that different from living in a house, lot’s of families search for homes with bedrooms on the ground floor for their kids so that they have easier access to an exit if there is ever a fire. I know moving into our place my boyfriend and a different view and was somewhat worried about what would happen if we ever had an issue. He said he would react much differently if I were there compared to if I were not. On his own he would have no problem playing the tough guy act, but when I’m around he plays it more laid back and wouldn’t antagonize a situation for fear of more chance of provoking the situation. Example, bunch of drunk people screaming outside our windows at 3am if he were alone or living with his buddies, he would yell some explicit language at them and probably hang out with a bat just in case. With me there however, he’d probably just leave it alone, or ask a little more on the polite side. I am all for the equality as well, and one on one I know where to go with my elbows, knees, nails and teeth if I have to, and I’ve done it, but evolutionary wise, women are not built like men, and testosterone just does a little more, I think your right with crime will happen regardless of equality, but women would still get different solutions to a problem then a man would based on just physical proportions of us and them and levels of testosterone.

    1. Living in a home in a nice neighborhood is far different than living in an apartment with who knows who else in the other apartments. When it comes to the differences of men and women physically, the lack of testosterone doesn’t effect strength. That effects muscle size. Male and female genetic predispositions come in what are known as type one and type two muscles. I forget which is which, but one are muscles for strength – such as lifting, and the others are for endurance – such as long distance running. If you took a man and a woman and had them perform the exact same activities, chances are the man would be better at strength and the woman would be better at endurance. That doesn’t mean a woman can’t be just as strong or that a man can’t be just as fast. It just means it takes a little more effort.

  8. I hope you have something to defend yourself. I keep my little league baseball bat nearby because I don’t want to go through the effort of getting a gun, and I know both me and my girlfriend could swing it hard without much effort should someone come in.

    I know it has nothing to do with your topic, but I’ve caught two different people creeping, looking into my car with a flashlight. As soon as they notice me they walk away, perhaps partly because I’m a man, but also because I’m holding a bat. I don’t understand it. I mean, I drive a crappy 96 Ford Explorer with a stereo that doesn’t even work.

    1. Hey, I don’t have anything particularly valuable in my apartment either. My electronics are the most expensive and they’d be hard as hell to get out a broken window because they’re so big. Some people probably just try to get lucky. I had a cousin who go in trouble with the law once for stealing. He and a buddy where just walking around a car lot trying to open the doors of every car hoping to come across one that was open. They found a few, but they got caught in the end.

  9. OK I’ll say it. Yes men and women are built differently, but they also think differently (Being Transgender I’m going to attempt to play both sides here 🙂 ) In general, your average sneak thief, peeper, etc can only focus on one thing at a time, whereas women can focus on multiple things Advantage No 1. Your average blah blah, probably believes the stereotypes of the slasher films that all women will run away screaming.
    Advantage No 2. God , evolution or biology decided to put the most delicate part of the male anatomy outside the body between two of the largest, hardest muscles. Your average scumbag, cannot concentrate on robbing,, assaulting, walking and protecting this delicate area all at the same time. Game, Set and Match, New balls please.
    It doesn’t matter how big they are or how much testosterone is coursing through their neanderthal bodies. An unexpected,good solid blow is going to put them down and keep them down.
    Oh. and a handy baseball bat is always going to be a bonus. 🙂
    If you have to rely on a man, then men have proved their very narrow minded point.
    Lets prove them wrong! 😀

    1. Men and woman are built differently, but if a woman wanted to learn how to handle herself in a physical fight, she could. It might take a little more effort to build strength, but it’s possible.

      I never thought about it, but I agree. I bet most would assume a woman would run away terrified. Those few seconds of surprise when they realize you are standing your ground would be the perfect time to strike.

  10. I had a crazy stalker once. I met him briefly. He was fairly nice-looking, but his shoes didn’t match the rest of him. Before I figured out there was something wrong with him, he’d fast-talked me out of my phone number, which helped him figure out where I lived (but not the apartment number). He didn’t know my name, but he had my phone number & called me over and over all night, like every 10 minutes. I didn’t dare answer because I wanted him to think I gave him the wrong number. Near dawn, I fled my apartment & drove to a relative’s house. I called the police & got an emergency order to change my phone number. I never saw him again, but I always looked over my shoulder until I was able to move to a different part of town. I learned a lesson: don’t talk to fast-talking strangers – and always, always look at the shoes. You are right to be weary – perhaps it’s a good time to learn how to defend yourself

    1. That’s equally frightening. I like to think the best of people, but you have to be cautious around strangers. I once gave a weird guy my phone number. He never escalated to full stalker level, but he definitely came close.

  11. I would say that you’re right that women are given the advice to avoid conflict more often than men, but I (even as a woman who does know how to fight), think it’s the advice given to men which is bad. A man wouldn’t be advised to leave that situation, and I think anywhere that a woman needs to fear violence, a man does too. Being male might scare away more creepers (I think you’re right about that), but it doesn’t actually make you safer against attackers. So if I were going to advise either sex, I’d say stay away from creepers. Doesn’t matter what gender you are, getting assaulted is a bad way to spend an evening and every fight hurts. So, while I agree with the principle that you should be able to defend your property, it’s much safer, no matter who you are, to get out of the situation. That said, a baseball bat isn’t a bad idea.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree. It was better for everyone to avoid the situation last night. I had a few people who thought it was my boyfriend’s duty as my partner to stay with me that night, but I still wouldn’t have slept if he did. His life is just as fragile as mine. I didn’t want him getting hurt.

      It’s funny though. Most of my close friends wanted me to stay anywhere but that apartment that night. My coworkers, however, thought it was somehow shameful of my boyfriend not to drop everything and stay with me that night. I wonder if that’s a generational thing. I definitely think men would benefit from being encouraged to avoid conflict as much as women.

  12. Scary situation indeed! I have worked in the law enforcement arena for several years, and it still stops me for a moment when I come across a case where a man is the victim of a woman, almost as if it’s more unbelievable than the reverse. Hmmm…

    1. It definitely happens. I sometimes think a lot of issues like this would be better handled if we removed gender from the equation. That way, maybe a man would be more likely to come forward if he was victimized by someone and a woman might be able to get help without anyone inquiring about how much she had to drink that night. Assaults, robberies and attacks affect and harm all genders, so why treat the genders differently?

  13. Very frightening situation. I’m relieved you’re all right. I have lived in an apartment that was accessible from the front and back doors, but I always felt safe because I lived in a well-traveled area where neighbors would notice if something was amiss.
    The scariest things happened to me when I was 19 and living at home and later after I was married and I was at home alone with my son (my husband works nights). I had a stalker when I was 19. He followed me out of work one day and approached me once, but I ducked into a store to get away from him. Another time, he phoned me at home as soon as my dad walked out the door to leave for work to say he’d been watching me from my bedroom window (and I had curtains that I always kept closed). I’m guessing he sifted through our mail to find out our last name to call. My dad got me a keychain container of tear gas that I carried around for years afterward. I looked over my shoulder for a long time. Later, in 2009, someone started banging on my front door and all the windows of ours house. I called 9-1-1 and the cops came right out and checked and kept watch of my street the rest of the night. It was the first time I felt like I couldn’t protect my son. Turns out it was my father-in-law. He was drunk and lost his keys and decided to come banging on our door because he thought we had a spare set (we didn’t), but he didn’t say anything. Just banged on anything he could and I sure as hell wasn’t going to poke my head out the window to see who it was, either. I haven’t been the same since, even though I know it was him. I still don’t sleep well at night, unless my husband is home.

    1. Oh man, that all sounds equally terrifying. My apartment is also accessible from two doors, but those doors don’t lead outside. They lead into a hallway that goes outside, but you need a different key to get into the hallway. On that front, I feel pretty safe.

      I think what’s odd about our situations is that none of the events change the world we live in. I’ve always been at risk of being robbed or attacked just by existing. That chance hasn’t changed at all, and yet, the close calls shake us up.

      1. Yeah, if nothing else, they make us wary and watchful and maybe even a little paranoid. Not great feelings to have, but they could be the difference some day (but I’m hoping it never comes to that). I won’t even open the door if I’m not expecting anyone, don’t care who’s there. I was outside smoking one day when my husband’s ex brother-in-law walked by on the sidewalk. He asked about him and I wasn’t very forthcoming and went back inside quickly after he told me he’d just gotten out of jail. Freaked me right out. I told my husband and he said the guy had been in and out of jail for petty stuff all his life, but he was harmless. This was several years ago. He seemed really off to me, but I never saw him afterward. Last year, the same guy murdered his mom (my husband’s former MIL) when she wouldn’t give him (her son) money. Stabbed her in the eye and punctured her brain. I don’t care what anyone says, I go with my gut reaction every time. Apparently, he tried killing her before by wrecking the car she was driving. And there were other altercations we knew nothing about. My husband was shocked, but it didn’t surprise me. He made my hair stand on end.

        1. You just have to go with your instinct. I honestly believe that our instincts can often show us whether a person is harmless or not. I’m not saying that’s all we should rely on, but we definitely shouldn’t ignore those feelings.

  14. Oh goodness be careful. My friend lived on the ground floor and a man got in and tried to assault her. She got away, but so scary. I think maybe replace the blinds with some heavy ass curtains, add another lock? Always lock your door when you walk your pets (that’s how he got into my friend’s place).
    That is so scary, stay safe 🙂

    1. I’m super paranoid normally. I’ll even lock my door if I got to take out the trash. My apartment is good, though. Even if I leave my door unlocked, a person would still face a locked door to the complex. They have to get past that first.

    1. One of my goals in life was to live on my own for at least a year. It’s not super comfortable, but it is comfortable to have the knowledge that I can make it on my own if I ever have to.

  15. I’ve lived alone on ground floor (though in an apartment on the back side of the house, not on the street side), but I didn’t have trouble aside from a neighboor who loved playing techno music at night – and I didn’t think I was in danger when appearing in my pajamas outside his door to tell him to stop messing with my sleep cycle (in the end I learned I was the only young female in the building not being harassed at all in the “classic” sense by him, so either he was scared of me or thought I was not worth the trouble). A lady from church told me to change the lock upon moving in to assure no former tenant could come in and surprise me, but I never did, and I’m still alive. The only really creepy encounters I had happened outside of my apartment. Once a guy I had talked to on the street for some reason tried to follow me home, so I had to do some criss-crossing around the neighbourhood to shake him of; and recently a creep slyly touched me with his elbow all the time on the train and then followed me through the station, calling me sweetheart and telling me to wait, but when I turned around to yell at him (I don’t live in an English speaking country, so I guess he didn’t expect me to be fluent enough in English to be able to inform him of his disgusting creepiness) he turned tail and ran away. I think the more women behave in a way suggesting vulnerability and being scared, the easier it is for men to believe they have power over us. Don’t show fear, assess risks in a sensible manner, and show creepy guys that you see what they do and that you won’t let them win.

    1. I wouldn’t call this guy a problem, since he didn’t come back. I’ve dealt with my share of creepers that I know feel just fine telling them to back the hell off. It’s nice that they usually leave you alone when you turn on them, but I wonder what even instigates that kind of behavior.

      I think you’re right. A person just has to learn how to stand up for themselves and avoid showing fear. Although, seeing as he was struggling to see through my blinds, I doubt he could get a good reading on the emotion on my face.

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