Just because this happened in New York doesn’t mean that it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen in smaller cities and towns.
I never reported any of the times I was sexually assaulted growing up. Not since my parents didn’t believe that a ten-year-old boy ripped my halter off to see my breasts when I was 13. I figured, if my parents didn’t believe me, surely the police would blame me as well. And even if the assaults stopped being quite so often once I hit my 20s, the sexual harassment continued until I started to hit my 4os. Plus, I am convinced that the reasons the assaults tapered off in my 20s is that after I got married, the emotional and mental abuse was already taking a toll on my personality and my looks.
It’s not that the police aren’t offering women sympathy for reporting an assault. It’s that our culture is so steeped in “boys will be boys” that these inappropriate questions and comments are somehow considered “sympathetic.”
In WHAT world is some stranger reaching down and firmly grabbing someone’s genitals an appropriate action? Hell, the perpetrator himself knew he was out of line, because he had his shirt up over his mouth and nose.
In a better world than our own, a woman would be able to loudly and strongly confront the idiot without fearing for her safety. In a better world, the moment a hand grabbed her genitals, she would automatically turn and take a picture of the idiot with her phone. In a better world, others who witnessed this behavior would make a moral and ethical stand to help her. In a better world, this wouldn’t keep happening every day.
But we don’t live in a better world. We live in this one, where law enforcement more often blames the victim than the perpetrator. At the very least, unless the victim is rich and powerful, they blame the victim as much as the perpetrator. And yes, they blame the victim less if the victim is male and looks Caucasian.
Let me describe something that doesn’t have sexual overtones. In my early 20s, I got into a pretty bad traffic accident (that was entirely my fault). It was my first, so I was pretty hysterical – in fact, the reason I was crying so badly was that I was repeating the phrase: “Oh, my God, Dad’s going to KILL me!”
The poor guy that hit me was an African-American business man, on his way home to his wife and family. His car wasn’t totaled, but would need some serious repairs. You would think that he, as the victim in the accident, would be treated respectfully and able to eventually go off on his way. That they would treat me as the criminal or at least as being an irresponsible person, because I was certainly at fault for the accident.
No, he got a lecture about speeding. He got asked question after question, with the cops trying to find ANY way to at least be able to say that the ‘fault’ was at least 50% his. Additionally, I had about 3 or 4 cops around me, literally giving me ideas on how to fight the ticket they had to give me for causing the accident. They pointed out that the guy was driving at least 10 mph over the speed limit. They pointed out that the bushes on the center line of the boulevard were far to tall to be seen over in the car I was driving. They gave me at least 8-9 different ideas that they thought a judge would excuse me for the ticket. (I only remember the first two, because I actually was going to try to fight the ticket, and those were my excuses).
Remember, this was before the 1991 Rodney King incident (See sidebar).
In this case of my accident, it was clear to me that I was 100% at fault for it.
And sadly, how our culture deals with rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment has led for most women to almost automatically blame ourselves for these incidents. Why? Because everyone else is telling us that it is our fault. Because, somehow, if we didn’t act in a certain way, wear certain clothing, have a less than perfect beauty or any of the millions of excuses our culture gives for some rapist acting like a rampaging, instinctual animal of lust.
Thing is…rape isn’t actually about sex. It’s about control. It’s about seeing the victim as less than human, as a 2-dimensional imaginary being in someone’s 3-dimensional real life. It’s no different than any other narcissistic asshole who doesn’t think anyone else in the world is real except for himself – that somehow we’re just extras in their life movie. It’s about someone (not just men, because women rape too) feeling like their lives are out of their own hands, and desperately trying to prove that they have SOME control over the world around them.
Rape is a crime that, like abuse, destroys the victim for a lifetime. Whether or not the victim gets mental help after it happens, many times the rest of their life is compared to that particular event or series of events in their lives. Their base trust that the world is somehow safe for the most part is completely shattered. They have to relearn how to interact with society after this experience. It leaves the victim trying desperately to find a way to armor themselves against something like this happening to them ever again. And unless someone can prove to them that they are trustworthy, they are going to find ways to close themselves completely off from the rest of the world.
Some people – like me – develop armor so complete that we eventually end up as something like an Ice Queen or a robot, seemingly never emotionally involved just intellectual. Some people become as narcissistic as their attacker. Others become manipulative and coerce others to interact with them in specifically defined ways.
We have GOT to find a way to change this.