Preventing Assault Isn’t Just Women’s Work
This happened a lot when I was at Scripps.
Some girl would get assaulted after a wild night at CMC or Harvey Mudd, and the next week would see, as predictable as clockwork, a whole slew of articles on what women can do to keep themselves safe.
Annie Le wrote one of these herself, a few months before her body was found stuffed into a wall.
Never go out alone. Take a friend with you. Check in with each other frequently throughout the night.
Watch your drink. It’s easy to slip something in if you’re not paying attention.
In fact, maybe you shouldn’t drink at all. Well – one or two is fine. But more than that, and you’re just asking for trouble.
Always leave the party. Don’t ever lie down. Once you lie down, it’s all over. Next thing you know, it’s the next morning & your head is woozy & you can’t for the life of you remember what happened the night before.
Don’t walk near tall bushes. Assailants like to use them for cover. They hide & wait for you to walk along, drunk from your too many drinks, and then they get you. Yeah, that’s how they get you.
I read those articles, and I read the articles about Annie Le, and I wonder why they’re all so focused on what women can do about the problem of assault & sexual assault. Why aren’t we talking about what men can do about assault? (Namely – stop committing them & stop rationalizing away your friends’ acts of violence).
In the wake of Jaycee Dugard and Annie Le, why isn’t my Twitter feed jammed up with articles admonishing men for raping, assaulting, and in Annie Le’s case, killing women? Why do the articles about the Annie Le murder even bring up these “self-help” tips? Yeah, as if there was something Annie Le could have done to protect herself, or Jaycee Dugard to protect herself.
Just seven months before police found what they believe is Annie Le’s body hidden in a Yale University building, the graduate student wrote a magazine article about how to stay safe on the streets around the Ivy League school.
I like their gender-neutral wording. “How to stay safe.” What Patrick Sanders of the Post means, of course, is how women can stay safe.
On Sunday, police said the 24-year-old bride-to-be, who had been missing since Tuesday and was to marry next Sunday, apparently met a violent death in a secure Yale building accessible only to students and staff.
A violent death! Like what we might all meet if we’re not careful. Don’t go out alone. Watch your drink. Are you sure you want to wear that? Might send the wrong message.
From a September 15 New York Times article -
“Last winter, Le, a pharmacology student from Placerville, Calif., wrote a magazine article about how to stay safe around Yale’s campus.”
“The article, titled “Crime and Safety in New Haven,” was published in February in a magazine produced by the university’s medical school. It compares higher instances of robbery in New Haven with cities that house other Ivy League schools and includes an interview with Yale Police Chief James Perrotti, who offers advice such as “pay attention to where you are” and “avoid portraying yourself as a potential victim.”
“In short, New Haven is a city and all cities have their perils,” Le concludes. “But with a little street smarts, one can avoid becoming yet another statistic.”
Leslie Tung, whose daughter is a freshman at Yale, says -
“I don’t think you can worry about living in a college setting…. or else you stop living. [I'm] not worried about my daughter. She knows to lock her door and be careful.”
While not every case of sexual assault is committed by a man, most are. Why are we letting them off the hook?
Women don’t “get” raped, hurt, and killed. Rape & murder aren’t these anonymous things that fall from the sky, completely unattached from human actions. Men rape, hurt, and kill women. Men are responsible for what happened to Jaycee Dugard & Annie Le – not me, not the women themselves, not women period.
A person can only be responsible for his or her own actions. If a man wants to rape & kill me, I can’t be held responsible for that. Only he can. So why am I being told to watch my drink & don’t dress too slutty when I go out with my friends? Why does Leslie’s daughter have to lock her door & be careful?
Why aren’t the Post & the Times publishing articles that say RAPE IS BAD & INTOLERABLE & WHEN A WOMAN FUCKING SAYS NO, YOU NEED TO LISTEN YOU FUCKING FUCKWAD DISGRACE TO SOCIETY every time a man rapes or kills a woman? Maybe that’s not the Post and the Times’ position on rape & murder. Maybe that’s not their position because it’s women getting hurt.
Maybe if we were less ambivalent as a society about our stance on the rape & murder of women, it wouldn’t happen so freaking often.