On Monday, I read a harrowing account of a Seattle woman who was attacked by a rapist in a park bathroom. Kelly Herron bravely fought off her attacker yelling, ” Not today, motherfucker!” even locking him in a stall until police arrived! Amazing, right? I think so, too! I felt compelled to share the true story on my Facebook page, and understandably, I saw many others who did the same. However, the more I read the comments on these shares, the more unsettled I became. It felt like something was missing from these conversations. In fact, it felt like a lot was.
This woman is a heroine, no doubt, but I can’t help but think of all the other women who are heroines, too. For us, it was that day. For some, it has been more than one day. For too many, it’s been every day. We did not escape. We were raped. Some still thrived. Many survived, but some didn’t. No one has heard the story of how we fought mentally or physically in those life-changing moments. The outcome of our attacks does not make us any less heroic. I mean to take nothing away from this woman’s triumphant feats and lucky day, but it is dangerous for us to end the conversation there.
It’s dangerous because:
No two rapes are exactly the same.
“I woke up with a gun to my head. My children were asleep in the other room. I was afraid of what would happen if I resisted.”
“I was so afraid that I couldn’t move.”
These are two comments I saw in response to this news story. It deeply saddened me that these women were going over their rapes in their hearts and minds wondering if they could have done something more, something different. I’m sure they are not the only ones.
Rape is not always the creepy stranger hiding in the bathroom stall. Sometimes it’s a gun to your head in the middle of the night while your children sleep in the next room. More often than not, it’s someone you know and trust and leaves you frozen in shock that they could betray you.
There is no one scenario to prepare for, and there is no telling how someone will respond in the moment no matter how prepared we think we are. More importantly, there is no wrong way to respond. Any other type of thinking only empowers rapists. They are the only ones who should behave differently.
It can easily lead to victim blaming.
Kelly Herron had taken a self-defense class and she credits that in saving her from being raped by this attacker. In the wake of this story, I’ve also seen many commenters who have been inspired to take up self-defense. I think this is amazing! I think anything that makes us feel empowered is, but ending the conversation here can be a slippery slope.
It can lead to the expectation that the onus is on any woman who is attacked to fight to the death Hunger Games style to protect herself. If she doesn’t, maybe it wasn’t rape after all. I don’t want self-defense to become the new “She was asking for it.” or “What was she wearing?”.
“Good for her! She shouldn’t have been running alone though.”
This was an actual comment from a woman, mind you, that I saw on a friend’s Facebook page.
“Why didn’t [she] just sink [her] bottom down into the basin so he couldn’t penetrate [her]” and “why couldn’t [she] just keep [her] knees together,” Judge Robin Camp’s comments during a rape trial
You see, if we start thinking it’s up to women to protect ourselves, where does it end? Should we never leave home alone? Should we not go out at night? Should we all spend hours a week and hundreds a month learning self-defense? If we don’t, does that mean we deserve to be raped? Guess who’s not even on our minds anymore? Guess who has slipped out of the conversation and out of the room and is already raping another woman? The rapist.
It can easily revictimize those who weren’t so lucky.
“My face is stitched, my body is bruised, but my spirit is intact.” ~Kelly Herron
I am so sorry that Kelly Herron experienced this brutal attack. I am so happy that she escaped further harm of being raped or even murdered. Her story gives me hope and makes me feel more empowered.
Millions of women are not so lucky. The reality is that we cannot always fight back. The reality is that even if we do, we will more than likely be overpowered. The reality is that we already replay our rapes over and over in our minds and wonder what, if anything, could we and should we, have done differently. We definitely do not need anyone’s help with that.
The reality is that we already use the buddy system when we can, and are ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice to defend ourselves and each other. We don’t need anyone, even other women, telling us what precautions we should take. It’s a reality we already live with and think about every day. Yet still, rapists rape.
If a woman does not take these precautions, is she any more deserving of being raped? If your answer is not an instant,resounding NO, then that is my fear in the narrow scope of this conversation about rape prevention.
Let’s celebrate this woman’s narrow escape from further harm. Let’s commend her use of self-defense tactics, but let’s not end the conversation there.
Can we please stop telling women how not to get raped and start figuring out why our society is breeding so many rapists?