Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ride the train, they said…

Looking for the light at the end of the tunnel...

I love Facebook sometimes. It might be full of a certain level of crazy, but it’s also full of some inspiration and some fun.



Someone shared a piece that a guy wrote. The piece was all about how he traveled across the country using the train for only $213. Awesome deal. So impressed.

I’m not sure he included the cost of his meals in it. And I didn’t see any mention of the lack of showers for those four days.

But most importantly – it was written by a guy.

Wait, hear me out.

This fit right into a thought I had last night. It’s all connected.

See, someone’s car got broken into. The criminal who broke into the car stole some stuff…and a gun.

I began by thinking, geez, what kind of idiot leaves a gun in their car?

Woah, I told myself. I was victim blaming. And I was. But that’s as far as that went. When it came down to it, I blamed the criminal who stole the gun. Yeah, maybe a gun shouldn’t have been in a car, but regardless, the criminal who stole the gun made the choice to break the law, to break into the car, and to steal the item. It was the criminal’s fault.

Following me so far, right?

Okay, but if that had been a woman being raped, how many people would have said, “Yes, it was the criminal’s fault for raping her, but she shouldn’t have been [fill in the blank here].”

It wouldn’t come up in court that the gun was “asking” to be stolen.

It wouldn’t matter in court that the gun “shouldn’t have been there.”

It wouldn’t come up in court that the gun “was too tempting.”

It wouldn’t come up in court that the criminal “couldn’t help himself.”

The quality of locks and the alarm on the car wouldn’t be presented as evidence to mitigate the seriously of the theft.

Have I lost you yet?

I hope not.

Because here’s the connection: if I rode the train the way that guy did, just buying a cheap ticket and sitting and sleeping in a general shared compartment without being in my own sleeper with a lock on the door. If I did that, and if I got sexually assaulted or raped, someone – or a lot of someones – would cry out that it was my fault. Why had I slept on the train? Why wasn’t someone watching over me? Why had I dressed in a way that allowed someone to rape me?

See, I think that I have the right to ride that train in peace. I have the right to take the same trip the guy took. I have the right to do that, and the right to feel safe doing it. But I don’t feel that way, and I’m betting I’m not the only woman out there who would not feel safe. And part of that lack of safety is knowing that, if anything happened, and if it happened to make it to court, I would be put on the stand and questioned. I would be accused. I would be just as guilty simply because I had existed in the same space and time as the criminal.

When it comes to a gun sitting in a car, we don’t blame the owner of the gun or of the car. We blame the criminal. We put the criminal on trial. That’s what we should be doing. Putting the criminal on trial.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Stop getting raped already!

help written in band aids
On March 9 – the day after International Woman’s Day – a college (which shall remain nameless for now), went ahead and engaged in victim blaming.  They offered a session of “self-defense tips that can help keep you safe over Spring Break.” It sounded interesting, so I went.

Instead of an informative session of any sort, they only handed out a sheet: “Avoid being a target of sexual assault by following these tips.”

The handy tips were taken from PPCT Management Systems’ “Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Instructor Manual” from 2005. 

The tips included some good advice that would help anyone avoid being the victim of a crime. Simple things like staying with crowds and using security locks on your hotel room door. Basic stuff. Stuff that applied to anything.

But the other tips? Not so much.

They suggested that would be victims “examine [their] clothing for escape or defense possibilities.” Wait, what? I need to make sure that my shirt can also be used as a katana or something?

They continued with the good ideas: “do not engage in conversation with anyone that is aggressively flirtatious or who constantly tries to touch you.” How exactly do you follow that advice? Chances are that if someone is not taking hints to leave, and you tell them to leave, they won’t. Why is it up to the potential rape victim (prv) to stop someone from touching her? How is the prv going to control someone else’s body? Wouldn’t it be far easier for the person doing the touching to instead be told/taught that he/she should not be touching someone else without consent?

The last bit of advice that I wanted to share from this wonderful source was possibly the worst advice I’ve ever read.

“Have a verbal response ready if you are confronted by a potential rapist. Try yelling one of the following:
·         I don’t have time for this (expletive)!
·         I’m pregnant or I just had a baby!
·         I’m gonna throw up!
·         I have AIDS!”


As a woman, I need to declare myself diseased or pregnant in order to avoid being a victim of rape. Am I the only person who finds that beyond disturbing?
When I complained to the person in charge of the event at the college, she told me, “They’re just college students.” I tried to argue that college students are exactly the people we should be talking to about preventing rape, not just avoiding being raped.

Her response?

“C’mon, I get paid to make popcorn for a living.”

Yes. That’s what she told me that. And when I tried to argue some more, she threatened to take the materials back.

I wanted to keep the materials, though, because along with the sheet of wonderful advice, they also gave out first aid kids. Because, you know, that way, after you got raped, you could put a band-aid on your vagina and be all better.

Before I could walk away with my piece of paper and band-aid, a 19 year old boy who self-identified himself as a virgin came over to talk to me. He agreed with my assessment that the statements blamed the victims. 

He didn’t know how to fix the problem, though.

Yes, he said, people should not rape other people, but he noted that there were plenty of people who committed crimes when they shouldn’t.  Telling a person not to rob a bank when they want to get that cash would have pretty much the same effect as telling a person not to rape another person.

The difference, of course, is that when a bank is robbed, it’s rare for the public to rise up and blame the bank. The police don’t show up and ask the bank what it was doing, waving all their cash around if they didn’t want someone to come and take it. The defense doesn’t call the bank to the stand and demand that they provide a timeline of events to make sure that the bank wasn’t leading on the robber or having anything alcoholic to drink.

In the end, the 19 year old and I had to agree that the college was handling it the wrong way, but no one could define the right way to handle it.

And that’s what worries me now. Because when I went to register for my fall classes, I saw something that was even more horrifying in the fall catalog.

“Coming Soon!” the catalog announced – “Violence Against Women Prevention and Awareness.” The box told all about an upcoming “mandatory training” for first-time students. “The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and was signed into law on March 7, 2013. The law requires that institutions of higher education provide mandatory ongoing primary prevention and awareness programs/training for students that address several topics related to rape, acquaintance rape, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.”


Let me repeat.


The same institution of higher education that suggested women tell a potential rapist that they “don’t have time for this (expletive)!” has now been charged with providing a mandatory training for students.

Somehow, I don’t feel any safer.

Somehow, I worry about what they’re going to teach these students.

Somehow, I begin to wonder if I’ll need that band-aid.