By Amy Hahn

Back in May of this year, I wrote in my blog: “No matter what, life may not always be what you plan; but it should be what you live for!”

As I reconsider my own words, I’ve begun to reflect on the events of the past six months – aspects of which I surely could never have anticipated. Because of a stranger’s random actions, on two occasions I was nearly killed. And on both occasions a caring person saved me. I was very fortunate, and I celebrate that good fortune. But I also feel obligated to advise vigilance – in light of social conditions in 2020, and what for many people have been worsening psychological and financial circumstances. This enhanced vigilance is not about “dampening anyone’s day” or canceling the holiday spirit; however, I feel that erring a bit on the side of precaution might help a few more people enjoy a few more holiday seasons to come.

On May 22, I was brutally assaulted by a thief who broke into our suburban home. He made off with several hundred dollars and left me unconscious for several hours from a blow to the head. (This individual was later arrested for other local crimes, is currently released on bail, and is supposedly in rehab.) My husband, arriving home from work, immediately called law enforcement and I spoke with them as best I could about the assault. I later went to the hospital to have my injuries assessed, and they were judged extensive but not critical.

Three months later, a previously-undetected brain bleed caused me to have seizures and to take a serious fall at home. Again, I was incredibly lucky that a neighbor stopped by and discovered me (unconscious and bleeding internally), and she called emergency personnel. They brought me to the hospital, where I remained in ICU for three days, sedated and medicated for intense pain due to a severely fractured upper arm and shoulder. Unhappily, surgery had to be delayed until neurological symptoms were resolved.

The surgeon and his team did excellent work but the recovery, of course, has been long and anguished. I have feared the medications assigned to me, and feared even more returning to a home environment I can no longer consider safe, especially for a woman alone and disabled – the home where I had grown up.

According to doctors, my left arm and shoulder will likely never regain normal function. Pain is a daily struggle.

Perhaps these events complicate and serve even to question the very idea of “suburban security” – as I see so many city-dwellers re-creating their lives far from their former urban dwellings. Our neighborhood – until May 22 – had in fact been a place where I felt secure walking around and living alone, yet now seems another brutalized state, with locked doors, protective instincts, and the arrival of fear with the slightest hint of disturbance. I have begun to hear noises in the empty house at all hours, to check locks compulsively, and to look forward less and less to my daily walks. Mentally, I am constantly “on guard.” The toll such reckonings take might be described as PTSD; but this is not only a mental state – it is a new way of life.

As I address the bitter aftermath of applying for legal assistance with all of this, as well as the ongoing psychological and physical consequences, I continue to wonder how a strong, independent, and socially-aware person (much, I’m sure, like so many of you) could so quickly find herself a person often dependent on help, frequently scared, and generally untrusting. I am surviving, but thriving is difficult.

I feel that I need to elaborate that this incident was not racially-motivated, and that my feelings toward this attacker have no racial basis. I have been assaulted before – both verbally and physically – where race has been a factor so I do know the anger and frustration such violence creates.

Yet in this case it was addiction and the need to procure funds to feed it that were the motivation for violent crime – a gigantic nexus of problems our culture sometimes ascribes to racial division despite the sad fact that ALL races are afflicted and affected.

So, unhappily, I am now left with the daunting realization that I am nowhere free of fear, nor free from the possibility of violation. I had naively thought that there were still places in the world as I conceived it that were “safe” from the dread of personal harm. But I have to report that I was wrong. And increasingly we ALL need to understand, prepare for, and hopefully challenge this “new normal” whenever and wherever we can. Survival, in other words, has to guide how we thrive.

I am absolutely not here to frighten or “trigger” anyone – especially not women, who must weigh the well-meaning scare tactics of authority figures against their own freedom from a young age. But I have to also assert that I learned something valuable enough to share through all this: I am trained in self-defense, I am (prior to the last few months) an athletic and fit person for my age, and I’m an educated adult. Still, none of this mattered when faced with an unseen (and un-fore-seen) attacker – he had a tremendous advantage and he simply used it.

What message do I want to put out? Be alert, be smart, no matter who or where you are, and (unfortunately) don’t trust old models of “safety” the same way. We need to take back our communities in a new and thoughtful manner, because the 21st century has brought changes to crime and to our game plan for deterring it.

Simply wishing that none of this had happened to me doesn’t change anything. My purpose in describing what happened is to encourage other “secure” women to be more mindful in their daily routines.

Practice considered safety measures at home, and when you go out. This is not meant to restrict your lives; it is meant as a cautionary tale – to make you ACT upon (rather than just acknowledge) the fact that the world and even your community has changed. For the sake of self-preservation, we need to adapt also.

Live your best lives, but realize there are elements at large who can disrupt and even destroy them; and the ability to anticipate and evade hostile elements in ALL your practices might very well save your lives. I was actually lucky, but I know for a fact that many are not.