Monday, June 21, 2010

Pissed (from Emily)

That's right - Emily just swore. And as everyone knows, when someone who thinks "that sucks" is a swear says that she's pissed... she's fuming.

What has me so mad? Well, recently some expletive-worthy male person attacked a 19-year-old woman while she was running, in the middle of the day, just a few miles from where I live. He crushed her throat so she couldn't scream for help, while he then shattered every bone in her face, knocked out every one of her teeth (to prevent anyone from identifying her) and broke multiple bones in her body, while raping her. Then, assuming he had killed her, he dumped her body in the bushes.

It was 3:30 pm, and she was running on a trail for pedestrians and cyclists. The trail borders the Provo River, and several meters of trees and brush line each side of the river/trail. This was not the deep woods - Utah is incapable of producing a forest, and the deepest the trees get is maybe 10 meters.

Right now the police have a suspect who fits the description she gave (the poor woman somehow survived the attack), but I doubt it's him. The man they nabbed robbed a nearby store a few hours after the attack, and he has a criminal record. However, despite his rather long history with the law he has never been arrested for harming another individual, and he didn't rape or hit the woman who was working at the store he robbed.

One part of the story that makes me particularly angry, though, is how some individuals have responded to this story. While most people are horrified in general, sympathetic toward the victim, and angry at the perpetrator, many of the comments people have written in response to online articles focus on what the victim should have been doing differently. I know none of these individuals think she deserved what happened, or that she in any way provoked the perpetrator, but by focusing on how "she shouldn't have been running alone," or "she should have been armed, and this wouldn't have happened if she'd been armed," they (unknowingly) tap into antiquated beliefs that women are responsible for being raped.

Frankly, I'm angry with the city of Provo over this incident. Relatively few serious crimes take place in this city (relatively few given how large the population is), and as a result of the low-ish crime rates police officers are free to enforce the relatively minor laws that go ignored in many other locations. Crimes like jay-walking, or having picnics in parks an hour or two after the park has officially closed. While I would hate to criticize any individual police officers, I think the police department has made a serious oversight by not patrolling this trail. Just last year a man attacked and attempted to rape a woman on that trail, using a "chemical-soaked" cloth to try to knock her unconscious.

I'm all for community patrols of that trail, and for people organizing group runs - almost immediately following news of this attack, a facebook group sprang up with those very goals in mind. This attack reminds everyone who lives in a city that they think of as crime-free or low-crime, that disturbing things happen. But as we take precautions to prevent future attacks, let's remember what really caused this problem: a violent individual with no respect for another person's life made a sickening decision. The victim did nothing wrong by deciding to go for a jog at 3:30pm.


  1. Have you seen this list from I Blame the Patriarachy?

    Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work

    1. Don’t put drugs in women’s drinks.

    2. When you see a woman walking by herself, leave her alone.

    3. If you pull over to help a woman whose car has broken down, remember not to assault her.

    4. If you are in a lift and a woman gets in, don’t assault her. You know what? Don’t even ogle her.

    5. When you encounter a woman who is asleep, the safest course of action is to not assault her.

    6. Never creep into a woman’s home through an unlocked door or window, or spring out at her from between parked cars, or assault her.

    7. When you lurk in bushes and doorways with criminal intentions, always wear bright clothing, wave a flashlight, or play “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)” by the Raveonettes on a boombox really loud, so women in the vicinity will know where to aim their flamethrowers.

    8. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If it is inconvenient for you to stop yourself from assaulting women, ask a trusted friend to accompany you when in public.

    9. Carry a rape whistle. If you find that you are about to assault a woman, you can hand the whistle to your buddy, so s/he can blow it to call for help.

    10. Give your buddy a revolver, so that when indifferent passers-by either ignore the rape whistle, or gather round to enjoy the spectacle, s/he can pistol-whip you.

    Don’t forget: Honesty is the best policy. When asking a woman out on a date, don’t pretend that you are interested in her as a person; tell her straight up that you expect to be assaulting her later. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the woman may take it as a sign that you do not plan to rape her.

  2. I love it! I am so sick of everyone focusing on what *women* need to do to avoid being assaulted by men, and putting no time into teaching men not to assault women. I'm all for teaching women how to protect themselves, but not at the expense of teaching male assaultants how treat women better.

    I was in a class a couple years ago where a student, along with a research team here at BYU, did an extensive study looking at what factors increased the likelihood of a woman being raped. But it wasn't enough that the study focused on victims' backgrounds rather than on the perpetrators' backgrounds - no, it got worse. When he presented data from this study, he then generalized these findings and turned them into advice, saying things like "So, if you don't want to get raped, get married."

    I don't think he understood how backwards his thinking was, but he couldn't exactly ignore how angry I was by the end of his presentation. He did seem a bit alarmed when I demanded, through clenched teeth, why they had designed the study this way.

  3. I was talking about this post with my girlfriend last night, and she talked about how her church youth leaders taught her self-defense and other such things. Apparently one of them worked at a rape hotline, so was very interested and up front about this whole subject. One of the things she said was "there are people out there who are going to assault someone. Make sure it's not you." Now I'm not sure what to make of the fact that the majority of rapes are acquaintance rape. At least in the case we're talking about from the Provo River Trail, it clearly wasn't.

    I've thought about this before, but your post brought it up again. Why do so many people blame the victim? Seems to me that we've taken the idea that you can be preventative (and I completely agree that going for a jog at 3:30 pm on a decently well-traveled trail is pretty preventative) about being assaulted because there are rapists out there, and I'm sorry but those are just the facts. Crappy world we live in. Anyway, some have taken the idea that you can be preventative and then jumped from "be safe and careful" to "if you get raped it's your fault because you weren't safe and careful enough," which is hogwash.

    At the same time, I would bet it helps some people mentally deal with such horrific events. It's a natural human reaction to try to figure out "why" and since we have no control over the rapists, we look to the victim to see what they could have done differently. This is an attempt to try to find some way to see that if it were them, they wouldn't have been assaulted because they would have been doing X, Y, and Z. Somehow the idea that you can be careful has led to the idea that rape is fully preventable on the side of the woman. Which, again, is hogwash. It's only truly 100% preventable on the side of the man by following the simple rule of "don't rape women."

    None of this is trying to justify "rape culture" at all. Just my theory on a part of why the rape culture even exists. I hope the guy they caught is the rapist, and that he gets put away for a long time.

    In short, I take a little issue with your phrasing: they (unknowingly) tap into antiquated beliefs that women are responsible for being raped.

    Saying "be careful" is NOT saying "if you're raped, you weren't careful enough" and it is certainly NOT saying "you were responsible in every way for what happened and deserved it." I'm also not saying that's what all the commenters were stating . . . clearly some of them are just wrong.

    Basically, I think where the "blame the victim" mentality comes from is in part from the following steps.

    1. Be careful.
    2. I should do X, Y, Z to be careful.
    3. If I do X, Y, Z, I won't get raped.
    4. If they had done X, Y, Z. they wouldn't have been raped.
    5. Because they didn't do X, Y, Z, they are that much to blame.
    6. Therefore, it's their fault they were raped.

    I agree only with steps 1 and 2. But I can see where steps 3-6 come from.

    That being said, "don't rape women" ought to be taught more to men. Especially since acquaintance rape accounts for such a high percentage of rapes.

  4. Carl, I agree with what you're saying about how it's not a victims fault, even if she could have been more careful, and about how no matter how careful a person is, the 100% effective prevention technique is for the attacker not to attack. I also agree with your suggestions on why people might respond with scenarios where they analyze how the victim could have responded differently.

    But where you disagree with me:

    'Saying "be careful" is NOT saying "if you're raped, you weren't careful enough" and it is certainly NOT saying "you were responsible in every way for what happened and deserved it." I'm also not saying that's what all the commenters were stating . . . clearly some of them are just wrong.'

    Well, I think you've misread me. I wasn't saying that people who are encouraging women to be careful in the wake of this event are saying that victims are responsible for being raped. You'll even note that before saying that *some* commenters were tapping into antiquated beliefs, I took the time to say that I was sure none of them blamed her or thought she deserved it. There's quite a difference between believing something, and simply tapping into that belief. For instance, someone may not believe that Black Americans are stupid, but if that person writes stories that portray Black Americans as stupid, that person is tapping into old-fashioned and racist beliefs (perhaps unknowingly).

    Essentially I'm saying that I think some older beliefs, beliefs that our culture once accepted, can affect us in subtle ways that we don't always recognize.

    In terms of this particular example, I wasn't complaining so much about people cautioning women to be careful, as I was about a) the people whose comments focused exclusively on what the victim should have done differently, and b) the percentage of comments that focused on how women should alter their behavior to remain safe, compared to comments suggesting other ways to increase the safety of women (ie: community patrols, police patrols). I still maintain that the commenters unknowingly tapped into the old-fashioned belief that it's a woman's responsibility not to be raped. (And by the way, that is a belief that doesn't necessarily excuse the rapist. It's like believing it's your responsibility not to get hoodwinked by door to door salespeople, while still blaming the hoodwinkers for their behavior).