You wait, little girl, on an empty stage
For fate to turn the light on
Your life, little girl, is an empty page
That men will want to write on.
From: Sixteen Going On Seventeen, The Sound Of Music
The Signal reported a woman’s rape in Sunday’s newspaper. Front page news. Last week it was Ruth Newhall’s 90th birthday, another day it was a photo of triumphant Hurricane Harbor lifeguards and, of course, every day there is the photo of an auto wreck. Usually you have to read about this type of violent crime in other parts of the Southland, the nation, or, even more remote, on the national page.
It shouldn’t have any less of an impact when it’s local, but it always does. It’s not about selfishness; just about self-preservation. Whether in the next few weeks the Signal follows up to find that that it was an error, today, SCV women are worrying about their young daughters. And some of us are worrying about ourselves too. We may have a rapist loose in our own backyards.
Sand Canyon residents are concerned that if someone can poison four dogs, the next step in this sick person’s mind may be harming another human being. All SCV residents today have to wonder whether this rapist was satisfied.
When I saw my mother today she thought I had gained ten pounds. No, I had to say, this was how I usually dress when Eddie isn’t with me. Big shirt, loose Bermuda shorts, no make-up and a ponytail. Hey, I’m married, why would I dress sexy when he’s not around? To attract someone who may decide that I’m looking for something outside the safety of my marriage? Nope, not me. But don’t get ahead of me, dear reader, I’m not saying that provocative dress was the trigger in our own local rape case. Its just one more thing women have to worry about.
I could spend an entire column on hate crimes. On films that depict and glorify violence against women. On violence against gays. On violence against animals. Some films may seem just grotesquely funny, but most blockbusters are seriously frightening and thought provoking. Women are the weaker sex; being just below men on the food chain, we’re to be hunted because of it.
I deeply resent having to live my life differently than men do. I resent that that rape victim will be living her life differently for the rest of it. I resent that the face she shows the rest of the world has been dramatically changed forever.
I read that France has a lower rate of violent crime than in USA. The article went on to say that the test studies explained that this was due to French boys receiving more demonstrative cuddling than their American counterparts.
So this is another thing I propose to SCV women: cuddle those boys. Smother them in warm kisses. Hug them at bedtime. And while you’re at it, do it to your spouse too. And even better than that, do it in public.
And to the rest of us, prepare your little girls for the boys that weren’t raised in France. Travel in packs like wolves do. Don’t drink too much. Don’t leave your drink unattended, take it with you into the ladies room if necessary, instead of returning to it unprotected and possibly laden with God knows what.
Take a self-defense class. I took one in college and I still remember how to use my loud mouth, break out of a hold, kick them where it counts and take advantage of a lead. Walk aggressively when alone. Keep your keys laced between your fingers. Walk with a classmate to your car at the COC parking lot or in the mall. Carpool with your girlfriends instead of meeting them at a bar.
When I was in my twenties, coming home from either the gym or a nightclub (All I recall was that I was scantily dressed.) my car broke down. It was after 10pm and the first thing AAA asked me was if I was alone. Now this was back in the days before cellular technology so as I stood there at a call box, opposite LAX on the 405, I realized what trouble I might get into. I sat stonily in my car, crouching my head below the back of the headrest, and impatiently waited the 15 minutes for the tow truck to arrive. I carried sweats in the trunk of my car after that.
Another time a girlfriend and I had car trouble coming home from a club in Malibu. Again, car-phone-less, we walked brusquely down PCH in search of a phone booth. We planned to hold hands if anyone slowed down. As if being lesbians would be enough of a turnoff to a rapist.
Over twenty-one and naïve on both counts. I thank God now for cellular phones. And women being more educated about self-defense. But somehow, I don’t think that’s enough.
It certainly wasn’t late Saturday night.