Yesterday, the Ottawa Police issued a warning to the media that they are looking for a suspect who has assaulted three women in the last month. Apparently, this guy has run up behind women and hits them over the head, then runs away. All three assaults have taken place in late afternoon, in roughly the same neighbourhood.
Kinda freaky. A little disturbing. Honestly, though, the piece that bothers me most is this:
Veinotte warned that women should be aware of their surroundings when walking and take precautions regardless of the time of day.
Now, before I get accused of implying that people don’t have a role to play in their own well-being, that’s not what I’m saying at all. We should all look both ways before crossing the street to avoid injury. We should have a good gauge on our environment so we can tell when something’s not right. We should know how to use our instincts to warn us when stuff is hinky.
Here’s where you lose me, though: anytime I’m told that I have to do something to stay safe BECAUSE I AM A WOMAN, I’m going to get angry. If I’m told to not wear headphones while walking through a park in mid-afternoon because there’s a “whackjob/nutbar/crazy”* hitting women, I get pissed. Don’t walk home alone at night. Don’t dress to bring attention to yourself. Don’t create the dangerous situation that will inevitably lead to your assault/injury/violation/murder.
It’s easier to make the thousands of women who walk through downtown Ottawa on a daily basis fearful of one asshole than it is to suggest that EVERYONE take a closer look at the folks around them, and take a collective responsibility to keep all of our neighbours safer. Making our communities safer should not have to equal the restriction of activities based on gender.
Walking down the street wearing headphones while female is not a crime.
* It’s not mental illness that causes men to target women with violence. It’s misogyny. Whether or not the suspect has mental health issues is irrelevant to the fact that he’s targeting women specifically.