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I closed my front door after picking up a package and locked it. I always lock my door. It’s a habit; I don’t even think about it. But there’s a very important reason why I always lock my door.

I lock my door because I am a woman.

I lock my door because I know what it’s like for a man to physically overpower me. I know how real that danger is.

I lock my doornot because I am fearful all the timebut simply because it only takes one time to not be OK and have your life changed forever.

I lock my door because of the men I’ve known who disrespected boundaries and took what they wanted because they felt entitled.

But the list of things I do because I am a woman goes far beyond locking my doors. I’ve learned that I always have to be aware of my surroundings.

RELATED: I Am Not Your Prey – My Fight Against Sexual Harassment

I usually cross the street when I see a man approaching me.

I look at what he is wearingthe details on his face, the color of his clothes, and brand of shoes. I notice what type of car he is coming out of or walking toward.

I memorize this information in case it is needed to describe someone.

I choose my parking spaces wisely when I go places. It can’t be too far, too dark, or next to questionable looking vehicles.

I hold my keys at all times so I am never found to be fumbling around in my bag for them. I am ready to use them as a weapon if necessary.

I lock my car door even when people are close enough to hear it and notice I’m doing it because of them. I still do it because being polite isn’t more important than my life.

I don’t do things outdoors alone unless it’s close to my house. And even then, I’m scanning back and forth looking for any suspicious cars or people.

RELATED: Speaking Out About Sexual Assault: Why We Must Keep Raising Our Voices

I am mindful of my personal space in public because I know what it feels like to have a man use his body to physically intimidate me without ever touching me.

I have done these things so long I rarely notice I’m doing them. The need to protect myself has been woven into my mind as a fact of life that comes with the territory of being a woman.

I protect myself because we live in a world where one out of every five women has been sexually assaulted. and less than one percent of those who committed sexual assault will go to jail.

And that’s not even the scariest part. The scariest part is that most assaults happen from people we already know. People who are already our lives.

Letting your guard down is a luxury most women do not have.

I protect myself, but I shouldn’t have to.

Our next generation deserves a better world.

The best way I know how to make a better world is by teaching my little boys about bodieswhat’s yours is yours and what’s hers is hers. Our bodies are our own, and no one has the right to do anything you don’t want them to do.

RELATED: 7 Tips From a Survivor For Talking With Your Kids About Sexual Abuse

I try to make a better world by sharing my story and the stories of others so that the pain of sexual assault is never, ever forgotten.

I make a better world by living my life to the fullest every day and becoming the best version of myself I can be.

I make a better world by speaking the truth.

Because I am a woman.

And I matter.

While sexual assault affects all people, being a female puts one at a higher risk of sexual assault (9 out of every 10 rape victims are women). Visit for more information and support.

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Kristen Gardiner

Kristen recently moved to the Dallas area with her husband and three wild and crazy boys, ages 9, 7, and 4. She is a stay-at-home mom who loves Whataburger, Real Housewives, Diet Coke and being an active member of the LDS Church. Kristen has a Bachelor's degree in Marketing from Texas A&M and an M.B.A. from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Kristen is also a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician and has a passion for contributing hands-on car seat education to the community. You can read more car seat tips on her blog: Driving Mom Crazy.

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