Posts Tagged ‘college; university’

In Case of Rape, Throw Up??

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Has Colorado lost its collective mind? First, Democratic State Representative Joe Salazar warns that women should not carry firearms for personal protection because, wait for it… they might shoot someone. “[I]f you feel like you’re going to be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, then you pop out that gun and… pop a round at somebody.”

He would have us believe that he knows what women are thinking and whether they are really in danger, even if the women themselves don’t. In a life-threatening situation, he wants us to wait for others to come save us, recommending we make use of call-boxes, whistles, and ‘safe zones.’ In other words, “Don’t you worry your pretty little head, missy. You just wait for a big, strong man to come riding in on a white steed and rescue you from another man who wants to bash your face into the sidewalk, rip your clothes off with a blade, torture and maybe kill you. Heh, heh.”

As if that insult to women’s intelligence and judgment wasn’t bad enough, earlier this week, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs posted a 10-point “safety list” entitled What to Do If You Are Attacked. They refer to these so-called techniques as “crime prevention tips,” but the fact that they are all reactions to being attacked, rather than proactive measures to avoid an attack illustrate their lack of effectiveness in a rape/mugging/domestic violence situation.

Topping the list is “Be realistic about your ability to protect yourself.” This patronizing warning tells women they just aren’t smart enough or strong enough to defend themselves against an aggressive male, hell-bent on harming them. It’s also downright untrue. Hundreds of thousands of women realize that they have more than enough power in their bodies and minds to save themselves in an attack. They understand, first and foremost, that they are not weak, helpless waifs whose lot is to suffer simply because some criminal has chosen to mess with them. They also know that a solid punch, kick, or elbow strike to certain vulnerable targets will put a dent in an assailant’s plans and afford them an opportunity to escape.

Also recommended as “survival techniques” on the University’s list are vomiting and urinating, to convince the attacker to leave the intended victim alone. So, seeing a woman doubled over, hurling in the bushes, he might think… what? “Oh, gee, she’s having a bad enough time already. I’ll go ruin someone else’s life.” Not likely.

Also, I must point out that it is difficult to force oneself to vomit or urinate on demand–especially in a life-and-death situation such as a rape attempt. Not to mention, while one is trying to accomplish these acts, one can neither fight off the attacker nor run to safety.

Two of the tips on the list actually contradict each other: “Yelling, hitting, or biting may give you a chance to escape. Do it!” is immediately followed by “Understand that some actions on your part may lead to more harm.” In other words, little lady, let him do whatever he wants. Don’t try to fight the Big Bad Man or you’ll just make it worse for yourself. The US Department of Justice reports that women who actively defend themselves against a rapist are more likely to minimize the attack and/or escape than women who don’t fight back. And, they are no more likely to be injured than women who don’t fight back. Note: in some instances, compliance may be used as a survival technique. For example, women who have been told by a rapist with a weapon, “Just be quiet or I’ll hurt your kids” have used compliance to save their lives and those of their children. However, compliance as an option is not the same thing as making yourself helpless in the face of sheer hell.

There are quite a few women’s self-defense classes available on college campuses, at martial arts dojos, in cities large and small throughout the country. Most are good; some are excellent. The instructor who developed these so-called “survival strategies” is not someone I would want teaching my sister, my daughter, or my friends. These tips would seem to teach how to become a victim rather than a strong, empowered woman.



She Did “Everything Right”

Monday, May 17th, 2010

A few days ago, I wrote about the attempted abduction of a woman in Chapel Hill, NC. The suspect grabbed her as she jogged along a busy street, at approximately 2 in the afternoon. Police investigators have reason to believe that the man charged in the crime may also be involved in other recent incidents, including the attempted kidnapping of two teenage girls and the severe beating of a woman still in Intensive Care.

The attacker had a shotgun and a baseball bat in his car, and a pack of condoms in his pocket. However, when asked by a reporter if women in the area should be worried, Lt. Kevin Gunter of the Chapel Hill Police Department said no: “This was a woman that was jogging in an area that is very well traveled with both pedestrians and vehicles, broad daylight. She absolutely did nothing wrong.”

No woman who has ever been or will be attacked does anything “wrong” to invite the attack. As a friend of mine said, “She could be sashaying naked through the woods at midnight! While not smart, it still doesn’t give anyone the right to attack her.” So, not doing anything wrong does not appear to be enough of a reassurance to women that they will stay safe.

Look at what the officer said: the victim was in a well-traveled area, with plenty of car and foot traffic. It was broad daylight. She was doing everything right. And look at what happened: she was grabbed by a man in front of several witnesses. He proceeded to drag her to his car, in which he had weapons. He is believed to have a history of violent crimes. If two bystanders hadn’t intervened in the kidnapping attempt, this jogger would likely have been raped and murdered by this man.

I think that’s more than enough grounds for women to be concerned–if not necessarily “worried”–for their safety. I know that the police see the worst of the worst when it comes to the evils that human beings can commit against one another. Perhaps Lt. Gunter believes all’s well that ends well, and with this man in custody for the time being, women need not worry about a threat to their well-being. My concern is that these women may not have paid attention to their safety before this happened–and then it happened. The very fact that things still happen, whether we’re prepared for them or not, seems reason enough to me to be prepared.

I’m not advocating living in fear, being afraid every time you go out, or burying your head in the sand when it comes to crime. I’m saying to get out there, take a self-defense class, and learn not only physical skills to use against an assault, but some new ideas on how to avoid being chosen as a target in the first place. Because, yeah, this guy is off the streets for now. But, what if someone else is waiting around the corner?

No Such Thing as Date Rape

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

A student at American University in Washington, DC has written in his school newspaper that in his opinion, women who have been victims of date rape “asked for it.” Twenty years old and generously sharing his insight on the subjects of women in society, sexuality, and interpersonal communication, Alex Knepper writes:

“Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI [fraternity] party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK?”

This presents an interesting interpretation of events. While on-campus socializing may be fine, he seems to think that going to a party at a frat house is engaging in foreplay. And drinking alcohol–a perfectly legal activity for anyone in this country over the age of 21–further “lubricates” the process, shall we say?

Then there’s the clincher: walking back to a boy’s room. This signals a woman’s desire for sex… how? Has the boy (we would hope for a man, but Knepper must know of what he speaks) become a mind-reader during the stroll through campus? Can he tell by looking that she is thinking, “I want to have sex with this guy as soon as we get to his room” ? Is there no other reason why she choose to spend time with him? I imagine that, if Knepper had asked some women what reasons they’ve had for going to a man’s room, he would have learned several.

If the confused young man in the above example wants to know what the enigmatic female is thinking, he should ask her. If he wants to know how the rest of the evening will proceed, he should ask her about that, too. He needs to hear her speak the words, “Yes, I want to have sex with you,” or “No, I don’t want to have sex with you.” Trying to guess her thoughts or interpret her actions leaves him open to gross misunderstanding–and to jail time. Rape is a crime, no matter how horny he may be.

As Katherine Hull, spokesperson for the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) explains, the issue at the center of rape is consent: “Even if you drink and wear short skirts — that is not consent. Even if a woman gave consent previously, it does not mean consent for right now.” Further, she clarifies that consent can be compromised due to excessive alcohol or drug consumption. What this means for those who adhere to Mr. Knepper’s reasoning is, “If someone doesn’t have the capacity to consent, they can’t.” Therefore, the inability to say “no” should not be taken as “yes.” Rape is not excused when it is a crime of opportunity.

Knepper disagrees. He writes that women give “implied consent” by putting themselves in the “sexual arena” at a party where there are expectations of drinking and sex. He states, “In that situation, men can only know the information that is given to them.” My question is, why do these men have an expectation of sex? A party is just that–a party, a social event. It’s taking place in a frat house, not a brothel. If the entire evening is a set-up for having sex, why not just skip the small talk and the accoutrements, and cut right to the chase? Stand on the front porch and call out to all who pass by, “Hey! Wanna get laid? Come on in!” That way, the intent is clear, and no one can accuse anyone else of misunderstanding. Or, maybe the problem is with the expectations of these men who equate a woman’s presence at their little soiree as desire on her part to mate with them.

During training to be a RAD Women’s Self-Defense Instructor, my fellow candidates and I were presented with two scenarios. In the first, a man and a woman go out for dinner, then to a movie. Afterward, she walks with him to his apartment. Once inside, he rapes her. We were asked, “What’s this called?” Date rape?

In the second scenario, a man and a woman go out for dinner, then to a movie. Afterward, she walks with him to his apartment. Once inside, he murders her. We were asked, “What’s this called?” Date murder?? No. Murder is murder, regardless of the circumstances surrounding it. The same holds true for rape. “Sexual intercourse without clear consent” is rape–regardless of the circumstances surrounding it. Tacking on the word “date” does not lessen the violation, shock, fear, and betrayal of trust that a woman suffers at the hands of the rapist. Whether he jumped out at her from a dark alley or forced her onto the mattress in his dorm room, there is no such thing as “date” rape; there is only rape.

It’s Your Safety–Take It Personally

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Two years ago, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill senior and Student Body president Eve Carson was shot to death, her body left in a street just off campus. Police soon arrested two suspects, and categorized the murder as a random act of violence.

Since then, parents of college students have become more concerned about just what is being done to keep their children (many of whom are living away from home for the first time) safe from such crimes. Raleigh mom, Angela Dunn, whose daughter attends NC Central University, tells her repeatedly never to walk anywhere alone, that “adults are getting killed everyday.” She also maintains frequent cell phone contact with her daughter. But neither of these practices will improve her child’s safety on the campus. Constant reminders about the odds of being killed do not offer protection, and they probably create unnecessary anxiety. Frequent phone calls also do nothing to increase personal safety. They may reassure the mom that nothing has happened to her child yet, but the very conversation could serve to distract the young woman’s attention from someone sneaking up behind her.

Universities themselves are taking steps to show that they are sincere in their desire to increase campus security and protect their students. UNC Chapel Hill has instituted Safe Walks, a kind of “buddy system” so students don’t have to walk anywhere alone at night. Other colleges and universities have similar security guard-accompanied escorts. But there are built-in problems with this system. The first is that, when not carefully screened, some dangerous individuals (such as rapists) have been given positions of authority and, it turned out, opportunity when escorting women across a dark campus.

A second problem inherent in the buddy system/security escort is that it undermines a woman’s independence. Let’s face it: college guys are not the ones calling for someone to walk them across the quad at midnight. Putting this kind of system into operation tells a woman quite plainly that if she insists on walking the 2 blocks from the party to her dorm alone, she’s taking a big chance with her safety and it’s no one’s fault but her own if “something happens.” It’s saying that she needs someone to protect her.

To the worried mom and the universities, I want to say, “What about personal responsibility?” What about encouraging young men and (especially) women to take ownership of their safety, instead of relying on Mom and Dad, or The University, or some other Entity, to do it for them? The best way for people to stay safe is to take care of themselves. Not to wait for help. Not to naively believe that bad things can’t happen at their school. But to be able to handle whatever bad things (or people) slip through established security measures. That could mean a guy who doesn’t understand what “No” means… 2 strangers knocking on your door, in need of “assistance”… or someone who jumps into the elevator with you at the last second and gives you a creepy smile.

How do people take control of their personal safety? By being observant, first and foremost. By looking around as they walk. (Did that shadow just move? I think I’ll cross the street.) By hanging up the cell phone and listening. (Are those footsteps I hear behind me? I’ll just stop under this street light and let them pass.)

Okay, now you’re paying attention to what’s going on around you. Your next move should be to find a good self-defense class, in case you have to get physical. Sometimes, just letting a would-be attacker know he’s been spotted is enough to make him back off. Sometimes, a strong, loud warning to leave you alone is needed. If he gets his hands on you, you might have to execute a quick punch to his nose and a hard run down the street to get safe again. Would you rather have that knowledge and ability, or press a blue light and wait for the police to show up?

RAD is taught in a lot of colleges. If it’s not at yours, demand it. Administrators talk about the importance of keeping you safe, about enacting new security measures and precautions. Tell them your personal safety is your business, and you need them to provide the proper education and training. After all, getting the best education possible is what you’re paying them for.