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Last Sunday, Kelly Herron was attacked in a public restroom while running in Seattle's Golden Gardens park. She wrote on her Instagram, "My biggest running nightmare became reality — 4 miles into my long run Sunday afternoon, I stopped to use the restroom and was assaulted by a man hiding in a stall." Herron's story has since gone viral, as it highlights both the necessity and efficacy of basic self-defense maneuvers and the lack of discrimination with which attackers select their victims. 

Using self-defense tactics she learned from a class at work, which emphasized "[putting] hard bones in soft fleshy places," Herron successfully escaped her attacker. She told Good Morning America, "It was a fight on the bathroom floor. All I could think was: 'Not today M**F**er!' I was screaming. I was able to pull myself out through the front of the stall because that door was jammed. I started to feel like I was going to lose consciousness." According to Herron's Instagram, she "fought for [her] life," "screaming," "clawing his face, punching back, desperately trying to escape his grip—never giving up." Though Herron's "face [was] stitched" and her "body [was] bruised," her "spirit" remained "intact." 

Police and social media hailed Herron for her bravery. Hosts of the popular podcast My Favorite Murder, which emphasizes safety tactics for women, re-posted photos of Herron's bloodied face and GPS tracker: "QWEEN," they wrote, "#nottodaymotherfucker." User lumienkeli333 wrote, "You are fierce! Thank you for your incredible bravery, for sharing your story and for reminding us to be aware of our surroundings."

The viral popularity of Herron's story shows that her "biggest running nightmare" is one shared by the millions of women at risk in public spaces every day. Although the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that "nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States," statistics surrounding random attacks like Herron's are less clear. While the World Health Organization estimates that 35% of women worldwide will experience physical and/or intimate partner violence and/or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives, this number could actually be as high as 70%, given the vast number of sex crimes that go unreported. 

In an ensuing Instagram post, Herron wrote, "I couldn't remain the silent, anonymous victim—there is a message of survival that is too important to remain untold. I'm grateful to have found the right people to help me tell it. ... I hope this encourages women to #neverstopfighting." Her message is an inspiring one, but it's worth noting that all too often, the female targets of sexual violence—random or not—lack the resources necessary to share their stories safely. The National Organization for Women reports that "women in the lowest income category [experience] more than six times the rate of nonfatal... violence as compared to women in the highest income category." Additionally, NOW reports, "When we consider race, we see that African-American women face higher rates of... violence than white women, and American-Indian women are victimized at a rate more than double that of women of other races." Herron's story is one of bravery and badassery, but it's also one of privilege. Would a black woman receive the same media attention? A Latinx woman? A trans woman?

Fortunately, Herron seems aware of the broader political implications surrounding her experience, and since her attack, she's approached its politicization with total wokeness. When the anti-trans group Just Want Privacy tried using Herron's story to support I-552—their proposed ballot initiative that seeks to repeal anti-discrimination protections for trans people in Washington state and mandate that public schools ban trans students from the bathrooms that correspond with their gender—she publicly stated: "To the people behind I-552, I say 'not today, mutherf*ckers. ... I refuse to allow anyone to use me and horrific sexual assault to cause harm and discrimination to others." Instagram user t_dex_official wrote, "As a transgender male I want to thank you personally for standing up for our rights. You are a badass!"

garymatthewsteinerInstagram/@run_kiwki_run

Kelly Herron's attacker has been apprehended and identified as Gary Matthew Steiner. Also according to Herron's Instagram, he is currently being held on a $750,000 bail. 

Top photo: Instagram.com/@run_kiwi_run 

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