I've always been terrified of being abducted. I've envisioned it more than once: in high school self-defense classes and in dreams. I turn around every fifty steps when I walk alone late at night. I have a rape whistle on my keychain. Despite the fear I held onto, I always pictured myself as a fighter. I'd see myself grappling and struggling, clawing and kicking. But when it actually came down to it, I didn't fight; I froze.
It wasn’t my first music festival—it was already my second one just during that particular summer. I’d been going to concerts, raves, dances, and music festivals for years. I started partying young—around seventeen— so dealing with the occasional inebriated, obnoxious or ill-intentioned creep was nothing new. I knew all the rules: stick together; go nowhere alone, stay aware of your surroundings. But when unlucky timing mixes with getting a little too comfortable, anyone is vulnerable.
* * *
It’s nearing the end of the first night of Moonrise, a two-day electric music festival in Baltimore. I’ve danced for ten hours straight, running between multiple stages with my boyfriend, Adrian, and another couple, Luke and Erin. But by this time in the day, I have the satisfying mix of feeling happy and exhausted. We’re toward the outer edge of a large crowd when I tell them to keep dancing without me, that I’ll be sitting against the fence that was in their direct line of vision.
As I sway to the beat of the music, eyes closed, enjoying the moment, I feel something indescribable, like being watched. I open my eyes and there he is: a forty-something, greasy man, with a nasty five-o’clock shadow. He stands over me and sticks out his hand.
“Hi,” he says.
“Hello,” I say hesitantly. He shakes my hand, but doesn’t let go of it.
“Come with me,” he says, tightening his grip on my hand. He starts pulling me toward him. His free hand grabs my forearm.
* * *
It was like those dreams when you need to run but your legs only move in slow motion or the dream when you want to scream but you can’t utter a sound. I wonder what my face looked like as he pulled me farther off the ground. I was barely able to make out the word “Adrian." My boyfriend didn’t hear me say his name; it was entirely too loud and I practically whispered it, but he happened to look over at the same time, ran over, and quickly diffused the situation.
Nothing actually happened to me. I walked away without a scratch, took a moment to collect myself with the support of my friends, and we made our way to the closing show. But what did follow me after that night was exactly that: what didn’t happen: my ability to fight back—how if no one turned to look at me, how easily I could have been taken.