December 7, 2012 by liebestropfchen
On occasion, through sarcasm and a biting wit an amazing platform for social education can be built. What began as a fun jab at Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” comment during a presidential debate has become an outlet for casting light on a problem many are uncomfortable discussing or would rather pretend doesn’t exist.
I follow the “Binders Full of Women” page on Facebook, and they certainly have provided a heavy dose of entertainment with funny pictures of Romney’s “bound women”, parallel political discussions of pre-feminist housewives, and various celebrity images joking about binders of women. I remember when this first started I had a conversation with a friend of mine about how long this page would be relevant once the initial media buzz from the debates wore off. We both hoped this page would be around forever, because the humor was incredibly brilliant. Thankfully the owner(s) of the page have been able to capitalize on the initial popularity and shift focus from a fleeting joke to a longer standing empowerment of women.
Branching from the origin of pointing out the misogyny still pumping through the veins of society, “Binders Full of Women” has been partaking in discussion about violence toward women. On 12/6/12 “Binders” posted a link to a discussion on Fox News between Dana Perino and other FN commentators regarding gun control. As a gun owner and a victim of a sexual assault, this topic is very important to me, so I was happy to see the discussion. I wasn’t prepared, however, for what I heard come out of Dana Perino’s mouth.
“Women are victims of violence all the time,” she said. Yet, when asked if they should carry guns, Dana Perino replied “maybe [they should] make better decisions”.
When talking to an audience, chances are there will be at least one member who has been the victim of a violent crime. Rule #1: Regardless of the decisions leading up to a crime (being in a bad neighborhood, choosing bad company, wearing certain clothing) telling a victim that they should make better choices falls nothing short of telling them “This was your fault”. I know this because I have been there. I was sexually assaulted in December 2006, and I spent the next two years of my life blaming myself for what happened. While it is normal for a victim to blame themselves, I also had a few people close to me telling me they felt (for various reasons) it was my fault. The psychological damage of just those few words took a long time (and some therapy) to unravel.
No question, Dana Perino is a smart woman, but I would bet she’s never been the victim of a violent crime. Comments like hers, that the victims of violent crimes need to “make better decisions” (referring to where we walk, who we marry, what we wear, and with whom we argue) is so incredibly infuriating to me, because it shows how insensitive the world is to crimes against innocent people. Hell, I may as well have slapped a big sign that said “WHORE” on my chest because I dared to go into a public place wearing the dress I’d worn to work that day – I must have been asking to get raped, and I just needed to make better decisions. Eff that.
Those who have not had something like this happen to them may not understand the depths of such a wound. This isn’t something you just “get over” or think about objectively as “I’ll do better next time” like you would a failed physics test. Be it rape, robbery, or even domestic abuse, assault is incredibly invasive to the body and the soul. Nothing about your life feels safe anymore. Normal tasks like going to the grocery store can trigger anxiety because the entire world is a dark and unsafe zone. What I learned is that the feeling of being violated never really goes away completely, but there are things or people who can make you feel safe enough to forget about the fear for awhile. It has been six years since my incident, and I still get scared sometimes. I try every day to build my safety zones – the places I feel protected and empowered – to minimize how much the assault will negatively impact my ability to live a fruitful life.
It’s not easy. We all have triggers that can set back the healing process. The other night, a man knocked on my door, and I was alone. He said he was from a vendor for AEP and needed to know if I was getting a hardship discount on my bill. He kept pressing me to go get my electric bill, as it was federal law that he verify this information. I was completely taken off guard, and it was suspicious enough to make me feel uneasy about my safety. After I told him to leave, I spent the next 20 minutes crying and clutching my phone, wondering if I should call the police. This may appear irrational to most people, but to those familiar with the effects of violence, it should make sense. Being violated isn’t easy to forget, and something so simple as a strange encounter can bring back those feelings of being assaulted. Even Dana Perino’s extremely narrow-minded comment brought those feelings back to me. My new normal is much different, much more vulnerable, than the woman I was before.
But I actually like who I am now. That night in 2006 changed some very key things about me. Unfortunately, some of the psychological damage it caused deterred me at first from fully grasping the depth of such a change, and the beauty of turning all the negatives into the greatest turning point of my life. Much like a building destroyed by an earthquake, I was completely shaken to my core, crumbled into pieces, and questioning how I would ever be strong again. What I came to realize several years after the incident was that my structural foundation prior to the attack wasn’t very strong at all…which made me a prime target for a violent crime. When I rebuilt my life, I was grateful to have some of my foundation intact, but the rest of the structure was going to be rebuilt with stronger pieces I chose very carefully.
Sure, Perino is right that we need to make better decisions, but that NEVER excuses violent crimes. One of those decisions we need to be better about is educating people about not accepting the behavior of violent criminals in the first place! This is what the “Binders Full of Women” and other similar pages on social media are starting to spotlight. By posting these talking points, we can truly see the uphill battle which can only be won by changing the world’s perspective. Perino may not be completely wrong, but she certainly isn’t right. After a violent crime, I had to learn to make better decisions in my future, but that should NEVER come at the expense of being the best person I can be. When fear of crime causes me to compromise the joy in my life, the criminal wins. Rather than me fully bearing the burden of safety, why don’t we ask why the person committing the violent crime bears no burden in Perino’s eyes?
While we all would love a world devoid of crime, we must be realistic that innocent people need protection from criminals. A defenseless victim only empowers the criminal more. Perino and gun control advocates believe crimes would not be committed if guns weren’t in the hands of American citizens. I promise you, where prohibition exists, so too will a black market. Banning guns legally will never EVER truly ban guns in the hands of criminals.
Self-defense is a necessity because we need to be prepared for when those things happen. Through experience I can tell you that society cannot and should not tell a victim what their method of safety needs to be. Some may choose their self-defense to be a gun. Others may choose marial arts training. Right now my choice for protection as a single woman who lives alone (a .38 revolver) is not one I am entirely comfortable with, but it provides me the most comfort of any I have access to at this point in my life. I promised myself that this was only a temporary solution…once I am married, and my future husband is there to build a safety zone with me in our own home, I will no longer feel the need for such a violent weapon.
An empowered woman like me is hard to keep quiet when injustice is done. Even when I get rid of my gun, I pity the next criminal who tries to violate my space without my permission. I may be petite, but I am effing powerful, because I now have so much to live for. What we need is a society of people who can feel so strong without first having to experience the violation.
In the meantime, I applaud the “Binders Full of Women” page for bringing such discussion to the table. Much the same as those who look down on women as being sub-par humans for lacking testosterone can benefit from knowing the amazing things women are capable of, so too will society benefit from discussions surrounding the need for stronger accountability for criminals rather than victims. The Dana Perinos of the world need a huge wake-up call – victims of violent crimes can, in fact, make better decisions…like fighting ignorance.