October 01, 2022

COLUMN: When will we stop blaming the victim?

What do you yell when you’re being attacked in public and you need help? If you answered “help,” you’re probably a man.

Many women, like myself, are taught to yell “fire” to get more attention. Because if you yell help, bystanders may just walk by.

Is that an accurate theory? Not necessarily, but the fact that women are taught and remember things like this show how scary the world is for us.

Just this month, a teacher and mother named Eliza Fletcher went for her 4:30 a.m. run through the streets of Memphis when she was violently abducted. Three days later her body was found discarded in tall grass behind a vacant duplex.

Have we forgotten Molly Tibbets? The 20-year-old University of Iowa student who was murdered in 2018 while running a route she’d ran many times before.

In both scenarios, the women were blamed for their carelessness. Why were they running by themselves? Why so early? Eliza is criticized for running in the city streets of Memphis while Molly is criticized for running a rural, farmland route.

In a viral Tik Tok comment section, women were asked: What would you do if there were no men on earth for 24 hours?

Here are just a few of the answers:

“Go on walks at night.”

“Wear an actual bathing suit and go to the beach.”

“Feel safe, I guess.”

“Run around at night blasting music into my headphones without like I need to take one out.”

Of course, men in the comment section were upset they were all being grouped in one category. The problem is, there isn’t an arrow pointing out dangerous men from the safe, kind ones. Women are lectured for being too cautious, but criticized if they aren’t cautious enough.

I hate taking showers when I’m home alone. I tried to explain to my husband that I’m afraid being in the shower will increase my chances of being sexually assaulted if a man were to break into the home while I’m in there.

It’s something that never goes through a man’s mind. It’s a fear that’s never been unlocked.

We walk with our keys between our knuckles as a weapon. We try to remember every trick and technique sex traffickers use to trap women. Maybe they put something on your windshield to distract you. Maybe they put a zip tie around your door handle to mark your car.

Don’t wear something too short or too revealing. Don’t go out late at night or early in the morning. Don’t be alone. Don’t get gas after sundown. Don’t have headphones in.

Don’t leave your drink unattended - buy this product that covers your drink.

Don’t walk alone at night - buy this self defense kit.

If you’re in trouble at a bar, order an angel shot and hope the bartender knows it means you need help.

If there’s a cargo van parked on the driver’s side of your car, get in through the passenger door to avoid being kidnapped.

You do all this only to be potentially failed by the justice system if you escape. In June 2020, 15-year-old Pieper Lewis stabbed her 37-year-old rapist and sex trafficker Zachary Brooks more than 30 times in a Des Moines apartment after he raped her yet again.

Yet Tuesday, she was sentenced to 5 years of closely supervised probation and ordered to pay $150,000 restitution to the man’s family even though police and prosecutors have not disputed that Lewis was sexually assaulted and trafficked.

If she violates any terms of her parole, she could be sentenced to serve 20 years.

So what do we do? Do we teach ourselves self defense knowing our options may be survive and face prison time and a lifetime of trauma or do we just live our lives and hope no one tries to kill us?

The Department of Justice reported 975 out of 1,000 sexual assault perpetrators walk free.

Of the 1,000, only 310 are reported to police. Why is that? For starters, it’s discouraging to women that of the 310 reported, only 50 of them are arrested.

Women also may not want to admit it happened. She may think her skirt or having a couple drinks means it’s her fault. She doesn’t want to face him again. There are a multitude of reasons a woman may be too scared to report the crime.

If she does report it and he is arrested, only 28 of those will lead to a felony conviction and 25 will end up incarcerated; 25 out of 1,000.

People wonder why women are twice as likely as men to have an anxiety disorder? It’s not about hormones or menstruating. We’re taught to live our lives scared.

Cheyenne Roche


Originally from Wisconsin, Cheyenne has a journalism and political science degree from UW-Eau Claire and a passion for reading and learning. She lives in Creston with her husband and their two little dogs.