Docsplainin' -- it's what I do

Docsplainin'--it's what I do.
After all, I'm a doc, aren't I?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Actually now I'm remembering why I quit reading the paper in the first place

In Sunday's paper there was also a response by "Dear Abby" to a potential sexual assault victim that nearly made me blow my obstreperal lobe. The writer explained that she walks her dog in a park close to her house where a park employee is creeping her out with his staring. She would hate to have to stop walking there. Abby advises her that she's probably worried about nothing, and should ask other women if he creeps them out, too. Gee, she (Abby) sure would hate to see the poor guy lose his job if the writer were to make a complaint. Which, by the way, the writer never even mentioned. She had responded to the staring by being more deferential (smiling, saying "hi") and was looking for a more aggressive response -- how, perhaps, to confront the guy.

Seriously, woman? 

In the first place, this park is close to Dog Walker's home. Perpetrators are known to place themselves in jobs, hobbies, and volunteer positions that give them access to victims. There was a guy around here some years back who worked for a car wash, enabling him to copy the keys of women in the neighborhood, you know, for easy entry into their handily nearby homes at a later date. Where he had followed them after detailing their cars.

In the second place, living in a rape culture as we do, women are taught practically from the cradle not to make a scene. When I first started out doing rape crisis, I was amazed to learn that self-defense instructors had to make their students practice screaming. The women didn't want to do it. Couldn't do it. Our instructor told us that, among other things, women would not cross the street to avoid someone whose demeanor concerned them, would not go into a public place to avoid someone they believed was following them, would not even confront someone who touched them inappropriately -- all for fear of making a scene. Mind you, it doesn't make it a woman's fault when she gets raped: My point is that we are forbidden in this culture to act to protect ourselves, and Abby's perpetuating this with her response to Dog Walker. We are taught not to listen to our gut, not to make a stink when something's rotten in Denmark. The last thing we as women should be doing is blowing off each other's instincts that there's something just wrong about a guy.

In the third place, I purely do hate to see that the "Poor, Pitiful Rapist" syndrome (he's lonely, he's frustrated, he can't control himself, he's sick, he's crazy, blah, blah) is still alive and well. Of course this guy's not a proven rapist, but all the same, what's with all this concern about him?? This is not about him. This is about Dog Walker feeling threatened. He might be mute, Abby writes, or not speak English (although what this has to do with staring is beyond me*). Children stare because they don't know any better. But when someone or something higher up the food chain (be it a man or a leopard) stares at someone or something lower down (be it woman or mountain goat), it's a threat that's recognized across all species and so it has been for millennia. Yet just in case she might hurt his feelings or threaten his job or some such, Dog Walker's not supposed to say anything?

No, no, no, no, no -- a thousand times no, Abby. This man's right to creep women out -- for any reason, harmless or otherwise -- does not trump Dog Walker's right to feel safe in public spaces. You should have told her absolutely to quit walking her dog there, or at the very least to give this dude a very wide berth and never be out when or where there's not large crowds around. And even then. What's to stop him from following her to find out where she lives?

And further, Abby, you should have given her permission to tell anybody she damn well pleases about this guy, although I stress that she is not obligated to do so. She can tell park personnel office, security, other women, whoever she wants. It's her story: She can put up a billboard if she wants to. She doesn't have to check with other women in the park first. If it turns out that it's only that he's mentally ill or intellectually handicapped, fine. Administration can put him in a position or on a shift where so many demands aren't placed upon his limited interpersonal skills. If he's some creep who was never backgrounded before he was hired, then better they know about it and deal with it now than later.

*in fact, it strikes me now that that's even a bit ableist or racist

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