Here’s a tale of girls having guns pointed at their heads, and still treated like they’re the aggressors.
When I was a freshman, my sister was in eighth grade. There was a boy in two of her periods who would ask her out every single day. (Third and seventh period, if I remember correctly.) All day during third and seventh she would repeatedly tell him no. She didn’t beat around the bush, she didn’t lie and say she was taken—she just said no.
One day, in third period, after being rejected several times, he said; “I have a gun in my locker. If you don’t say yes, I am going to shoot you in seventh.”
She refused again, but right after class she went to the principal’s office and told them what happened. They searched his locker and there was a gun in his backpack.
The boy was arrested, but the girl was left at school with her friends telling her it was her fault the boy brought a gun to school, her fault the school was put in danger, and why couldn’t she just give the kid a chance? She made him lose his temper because she said no so many times. So selfish of her, not to give this kid what he wanted.
Years later, when I was a senior, I was the only girl in my Criminal Justice class. The teacher, who used to be a sergeant in the police force, told us a story of something that had happened to a girl he knew when she was in high school. There was a guy who obviously had a crush on her and he made her uncomfortable. One day he finally gathered up the courage to ask her out, and she said no.
The next day, during an assembly, he pulled a gun on her in front of everyone and threatened to kill her if she didn’t date him.
He was tackled to the ground and the gun was taken from him.
I don’t want to quote too much, but what happens next is…special. All the boys say the girl was to blame for the boy’s actions. The way one kid reasons is:
one boy raised his hand and literally said; “But if someone were to punch me and I punched him back, who is at fault for the fight? He is, not me. It’s self-defence. She started it, so anything that happens to her is in reaction to her actions .It’s simple cause and effect.”
“She started it” by refusing to go out with a boy who made her uncomfortable. Refusing a date is the same as punching someone in the face.
I’ll admit that we’re talking about very young kids here. Their life experience is very limited and they might not yet have the mental sophistication to keep in mind that a boy who’s horrible enough to pull a gun on a girl who says no to him will probably not be a good partner to a girl who says yes. He’s already demonstrated a capacity for violence. That doesn’t bode well for a romantic relationship. But maybe these kids just don’t know enough to think that far ahead! They’re only thinking of their own discomfort, and they’re just looking at what the girl could’ve done to spare them the stress of seeing a gun pulled out at school. Maybe they don’t respond to the news of a woman getting killed by her male partner with “But why didn’t she just leave him??!!”
Even so, they’re already propagating the message that a girl doesn’t have the right to say no to a boy’s advances. They’ve already gotten the idea in their heads that if a boy desires a girl, that desire is important enough to warrant threatening her with serious harm and putting other youngsters in danger. They’re already treating (female) refusal as a provocation to (male) violence.
Not all men are violent. I haven’t yet heard anyone suggest they are! Most boys never go anywhere near bringing a gun to school. Most boys don’t respond with violence when girls turn them down.
And yet, for every boy who threatens to shoot a girl for refusing his advances, there are plenty more young people who think “WHY COULDN’T SHE JUST GIVE HIM A CHANCE?” is a better response than “WHY COULDN’T HE JUST LET HER GO?”
I don’t want to hear any more about why women should stop lying about having boyfriends. I don’t want to hear any more about the evils of giving fake numbers. I don’t want to hear any more finger-pointing about how women aren’t sufficiently direct in telling men they’re not interested. I don’t want to hear any more jabbering that the latest woman to be killed or nearly killed by an abusive partner should have JUST left him earlier. No. I see violent men and boys getting their targets coming and going. She says no at the start, he gets homicidal. She says yes and gets involved, he puts her through months or years of violence. She stays with her abuser, he eventually kills her or drives her to suicide. She leaves, he comes after her. She goes back to him, he keeps on battering her. She refuses to go back, he kills her. No matter what she was up against, somehow she should’ve responded differently.
With that in mind, I am totally done with any discussion of what women might do differently to protect ourselves from violence. I’m done. There are no legitimate critiques of women’s behavior as targets of male violence. If everything we do permits male violence, and everything we do elicits victim-blaming, then all criticisms are meaningless.
I don’t want to hear any more objections of “Not All Men are like that!” You want to be seen as one of the good guys? Then act like a good guy.