As UCSB students and people of the world in general, we hear story after story and case after case of harassment, violence, rape and other atrocities brought against the weak, the ignorant and the unaware.
We use these stories to bolster our own assurance that evils of this type will never happen to us – as long as we lock our doors, don’t wear skimpy shirts or f#@%-me boots and hang around people we consider our friends.
Unfortunately, as I have recently become heart-wrenchingly aware of in a personal defense course and by living in the “community” of Isla Vista, following those guidelines is not enough to keep well-meaning pranksters away, let alone dangerous criminals who are really out to do harm to anyone within groping distance.
Another regrettable facet of our delusion is the way in which we have come to imagine “dangerous criminals.” Sure, there are those out there in ski masks hiding in the bushes, waiting for an unsuspecting victim to pass by, but in our environment, these are rare in comparison with those criminals who wear the masks of friendly open faces and lurk in our friends’ parties, valiantly offering to walk us home when we’re drunk.
Now, I am not saying that there is no way to protect ourselves in this cruel world and that we should view everyone we know as potential threats; I am simply advocating a society that perpetuates awareness instead of blind fear, and blame on the executor of a crime, rather than the survivor.
What we need to realize is that it is the AGGRESSOR that is always in the wrong. No matter what condition the victim is in, there is NEVER justification for proceeding with any unwanted advance without intelligible and positive consent and affirmation to continue with the act. That’s all there is to it.
In realizing this, we should also take note of the fact that acts of power and aggression are both detrimental to, and symptoms of, our entire society and culture. They could just as easily happen to a friend, a person that sits down the row in your history lecture, your girlfriend or yourself, as they could to someone you’ve never met and whose name is forgotten as soon as the words “Damn, that’s too bad,” leave your lips.
Maybe if the small portion of our population that has brought so much physical and mental anguish to such a wide audience had imagined their acts being brought upon someone close to them, they would have thought twice before doing it.
As a guest speaker from Men Against Rape told my personal defense class, men need to be held accountable for how they speak about women and in doing so, perpetuate a culture that allows crimes against women to be seen by some as acceptable, even though the majority of men would never harass or assault another human. By going along with and participating in conversations regarding girls who “look good,” or “are doable,” the small percentage of males who may be prone to engage in violence will feel supported in their quest for overpowering another.
Only by acknowledging the failings of our educational systems, family histories, youth culture and other circumstances that create a net of tolerance for these crimes to continue can we remove them from the list of acceptability and realize them for what they are: permanent and life-altering changes to the minds of crimeless humans.
Personal defense (PA 6A) will be offered Winter Quarter, although students cannot currently register for it through GOLD or RBT. Please contact instructor and Rape Prevention & Education Program Assistant Coordinator Rita Ornelas at 893- 3778 to inquire or enroll.
Diana Ray is a Daily Nexus assistant campus editor.