My Voice was My Most Powerful Weapon
BY: MARIA BALL, VOLÉE
The date was Friday, September 28. The night before, I sat down with my husband and mapped out my 16-mile long run that I was planning to run the next day. I was training for the NYC Marathon and had to squeeze in my long run for the week before hopping on a flight back to Baltimore for the weekend. I planned my route so that I would be avoiding the “sketchy” parts of Ballard & Fremont before the sun was up because I didn’t want to risk being attacked. I decided to run laps around Green Lake instead.
I woke up that morning, had my oatmeal, laced up my running shoes, put on my headlamp and drove over to Green Lake. I parked in the same parking lot I always park in and took off on my run. I decided to stick to the outer loop of Green Lake until the sun came up.
As I made my way around the lake, I came to Ravenna Boulevard and decided to add some mileage on by running up it. I had run this route a few times before with my running group on Saturday mornings. As I began running underneath the I-5 bridge, I felt a little unsafe because I saw a man walking in my direction who had a dark hoodie on and blue jeans. It was only 6:20 in the morning, so I figured maybe he was just out on a walk and it seemed a little bit off but not too alarming. I continued running. I made my way back towards Green Lake, and I saw another woman who I thought I knew who was also running. I thought to myself, “Maybe I should say hi if I catch up to her!” I never saw her again.
I was about 4 miles into my run when all of a sudden I felt someone come up from behind me and grab each of my breasts and I thought to myself, “This is not okay I need help I need help now!!!” I used all of my might and screamed as loud as I could. At this point, my attacker had reached between my legs and grabbed my crotch. In those moments I remember how Kelly Herron, a fellow Oiselle Volée and Seattle runner, fought off a rapist on one of her runs last Spring. I shoved my elbows back, hitting my attacker’s rib cage, and screamed even louder! By the time I turned around to look at my attacker’s face, he had taken off.
In those moments right after I was attacked, I felt as if the world around me stopped and I was the only one that was aware of what had happened. I remember making eye contact with the woman who is sitting in her car nearby telling her to call the police immediately. At this point, four others had come out of their houses immediately came to my side to help me. One of them called the police, one of them took off on foot looking for my attacker and the other two comforted me. I am so thankful for these people. I don’t remember their names all I know is that they saved my life.
Once the police were called, I chose to run about a half a mile back to Green Lake to meet the police since I did not feel safe in the area where I was attacked. I got to the Starbucks and met with the three police officers. I recounted my story to them and they assured me that this was indeed sexual assault and they will do everything in their power to catch the man who did this to me. Unfortunately, I did not see my attacker’s face, so their hunt is a little more challenging. The police officers told me to be sure to share what happened to me with other runners I know so that they are aware. They were the kindest and most compassionate and empathetic police officers I have ever met.
I decided to share what happened to me on Facebook, and by the end of that day, I had been contacted by six different news and radio stations in Seattle asking me to do interviews. I was exhausted, but I agreed to do them. I was back at the scene of my attack that afternoon for interviews and I’m so glad I spoke out so quickly after my attack. I may have still been in shock, but I wanted to do everything I could to get the word out about what happened to me.
Early that next week, another woman came forward who had been attacked in the same area of town and the same time of day as me, just a week earlier. She thanked me for having the courage to speak out, because it gave her the courage to speak out, too. Her attacker fit the same description as mine. The cops are working hard to find the man who did this terrible, terrible thing and I hope that by me continuing to speak out, others are more aware of what could happen. I’m so thankful I took a self-defense class so I knew to use my voice. My voice was my most powerful weapon in the moments immediately after my attack and will continue to be my most powerful weapon as I speak out about what happened to me.