The Audacity of “Some Students”

“Some students” just don’t take the proper precautions.

To prevent sexual assault, I mean. Some students just don’t take the proper precautions. MPD Lt. Hedgecock tells us “students in the area are at similar risk” as a woman who was “sexually assaulted” in Burleith several weeks ago “if they do not take safety precautions.”

Georgetown Girl is a blog about issues of sex and gender I encounter in my life. Sexual assault is very much a gender issue, both in the prevalence of female victims and in the way we treat those female victims based on sexual history, etc. Sometimes, I see the way we treat those female victims – with absolutely paternalistic, “I know better than you do, this shit wouldn’t happen to you if you locked your door” attitudes – spill over into the way we treat all students.

Just by the virtue of us being students, they expect us to fuck up.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it, ladies?

You totally wouldn’t get raped if you just stopped walking back from Sellinger to your T Street house at midnight. You idiot.

For “students” instead of “women,” it translates into:

Nothing would happen to you if you stopped doing your grocery shopping when you finally have time at night, and then walking back to your S Street house. That’s the reason you got mugged. It wasn’t because someone mugged you. Also, stop buying beer. It’s bad for your health and your relationship with the neighbors.

So imagine my UTTER SURPRISE when it turned out Lt. Hedgecock took the crime of breaking-and-entering and RAPE and told The Hoya “This was a preventable crime.”

Oh, except for when the problems ACTUALLY involve entering a home “by removing an air conditioning unit attached to a window.” Except for that minor detail, this was totally a preventable crime.

Georgetown students: by the virtue of not locking your doors, you caused this rape to occur.

You’re probably rolling your eyes at me right now. You’ve heard this bullshit before. You’re as unsurprised as I am.

But I wanted to bring out this paternalistic message towards all students. This is something a lot of women are used to getting stuck with. I think a lot of male students, though, sometimes don’t realize what this paternalism feels like, which is why there’s so much backlash from men, in particular, when I bring it up in casual conversation. Courtesy of The Hoya, here’s why we get pissed off:

“This was a preventable crime. Students have to lock their doors and protect themselves by staying in groups,” Hedgecock said. “Lots of these folks are brand-new at living on their own. Georgetown is a wonderful place, but it is in a big city and is prone to the dangers of a big city.”

I’m sorry, but there is no way this crime could have been prevented by heeding Lt. Hedgecock’s advice. As far as we know, the victim was following all of the conventional advice. To not only misclassify the crime as a sexual assault instead of rape, but to essentially blame the woman who was raped by claiming the crime was preventable, is unacceptable, at the very least.

Welcome to the wonderful world of paternalism, in which you are not only at fault because you are a woman, but also because you are a Georgetown student, or because you’ve never lived in a city.

Or because you improperly assume that MPD will treat you like an adult instead of a petulant child. Whichever.

As a side note: I’m not a journalist. Vox Populi (the link from where I got the information about the original crime report) could have gotten this all wrong. I know the process that the Georgetown media sources go through to obtain crime reports, though (those who actually obtain them are to be seriously commended), and I harbor significant doubts that any news source would a) report on a false crime report or b) misrepresent a crime report after going through all of that trouble to get it. The Hoya did not, as far as I can tell, publish a news article based on the crime report once it was acknowledged that there were blatantly incorrect suggestions by MPD. I do not blame The Hoya for taking Lt. Hedgecock at his word – before this, we had no reason to assume MPD was lying. I do want The Hoya, however, to take the misrepresentation of the crime far more seriously than it did. The Hoya has a readership (and a budget) that The Georgetown Voice (which runs Vox) never will, and it should do some of its own investigatory reporting to find out what happened here – and force MPD to apologize for treating us like we’re asking to be mugged and raped.

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    • Blooming Psycho
    • September 11th, 2010

    It’s always easier to blame the victim, of course in the case of rape victims but even in the case of homeless people or people who live in bad neighborhoods. Kind of an attitude of “if these lowlifes weren’t homeless/didn’t live in this violent neighborhood, this wouldn’t have happened to them.” Point fingers at those already injured rather than solve the crime. Sadly, there is nothing new under the sun.

    • I agree that our society has a habit of victim-blaming. I am proud to live in a culture that values self-sufficiency and trusts that all people are capable of working to their full potentials, but ignoring the environments in which those potentials exist is just absurd.

    • Eileen
    • September 11th, 2010

    Mara, this crime could totally have been prevented. But only by the rapist.

    Technically, though, “rape” does not exist as a crime (at least in my home state, where my health class was the only time we were taught about what does and does not constitute consent – and who is and is not in a position to give it, and to whom): the official term is sexual assault, for whatever legal reason that I’ve never stopped to look up. So I don’t blame MPD for that. Whether or not you like the classification is not the point; if the crime being committed is legally known as “sexual assault,” that’s what a police officer is going to call it.

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