Society’s Survival Guide to Not Getting Assaulted

Why I shouldn’t have to be startled by my own shadow…

By Emily Hammerman, B.A.

*Originally published on the Catharsis Productions Blog on April 21st, 2016*

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It is 8pm on a Wednesday. Location: CTA Tunnel.

I’m wearing black leggings and a long jacket. One of my headphones blasts an old Blink-182 anthem in my ear and the other hangs down my chest getting lost in the frill of my scarf. I reach a hand up to fish it out and twirl it around my un-manicured finger while my other hand clings tightly to the set of keys in my pocket. I survey my fellow commuters and check the train tracker app on my phone. Due.

My train arrives, flying fast and past me until it comes to a stop, and I breathe a sigh of relief. Not because it finally arrived, but because no one pushed me in front of it.

I would not categorize myself as paranoid. Sure, I participate in the occasional glance behind my back, the quick hand to my purse to ensure my wallet is still there, and every so often I jump at the sight of my shadow. But paranoia? Not a condition I suffer from. Something I do suffer from, however, is the backlash of being a woman in a culture obsessed with fearing assault.

Let me break it down. I don’t expect anyone to push me in front of the Red Line train to Howard. In fact, I truly believe that most people have genuine natures, kind hearts, and good intentions. Why would someone want to hurt me?

But it’s not about whether or not I believe someone will hurt me. In fact, according to our society, it’s not even about that “someone” at all. It’s about how I am considered solely responsible for how other people decide to treat me. It’s about it being my fault for putting myself in dangerous situations that welcome others to attack me. It’s about how instead of teaching human beings to not inflict harm on one another, the world has spent its entire career training me to avoid becoming the victim of assault.

Backwards, much?

Let’s rewind.

Around 7:41pm I prepared to leave my apartment to go to dance rehearsal. I threw on a pair of black leggings and a t-shirt and reapplied a natural shade of pink lipstick. Random choices? Quite the contrary. The lighter lipstick draws less attention than the edgy deep burgundy I’d really prefer to wear and the black leggings slim my plump rump down to an appropriate size for the public eye.

If the black color wasn’t enough to hide the invitation to attack me otherwise known as my behind, I made sure to slip on my sweater jacket that falls just above the knee. Conservatively dressed women don’t get raped, says society. I winked at myself in the hall mirror, thankful for the tip.

On went my handy dandy running shoes. Not only would they be helpful should I need to run for my life, but they allow me to walk at the quick pace I need to maintain in order to appear that I am confident about where I am going, and walking with a Don’t-Mess-With-Me purpose. Sometimes I add in a stank-face just for fun. It’s important to repel anyone who crosses my path.

Next, I pulled the strap of my purse over my head so that it stretched across my torso, the bag resting against my hip. I did this because it makes it much more difficult for someone to strip it away from me, as opposed to the easy access style of simply stringing it over my shoulder. That’s amateur stuff right there. A woman should know better than that.

After I triple checked that my purse was fully zipped and that I had everything I needed, I prepared to take the leap that would force me into the unknown: a misty, dark metropolis where all is silent but the squeak of a rat and my lone hollow footsteps. The streets are barren, a post-apocalyptic concrete jungle where the only witnesses to my probable attack are the faceless mannequins who hover over the sidewalks through glass. It is a perilous place, this unknown. One where the key I use to enter my home is now the key I use to shank my rapist. One where every man becomes the villain, and every look misinterpreted, judgements and unprovoked fears clouding my grasp on reality.

I mustered the courage to embark through this unknown and opened my apartment door. The journey was treacherous and full of terrors, but I luckily made it to the Red Line tunnel where I waited and eventually successfully boarded the train.

No one pushed me in front of it.

Society would call this a miracle; a job well done on taking the necessary precautions to protect myself from all the forces of evil this world has to offer. But let’s play out a different scenario. What if I had gotten pushed by evil?

Would the headline read “Young Woman Gets Pushed Onto Tracks” or “Girl Falls, Too Close to the Edge”?

On the train, my stop approaches, and I stand to walk towards the door. The eyes of a man who was sitting across from me follow my strides and I realize that my jacket hiked up to reveal my leggings from the butt down.

Gasp.

I quickly pull down my jacket. The man stares. As soon as the doors part ways I’m off the train and hurrying to the exit, my running shoes thankfully serving their function. This was a close call, society has taught me. I survived tonight, but maybe the next time I leave my apartment, I should consider wearing a different pair of pants.

You know, pants that would prevent me from being assaulted.


Emily Catharsis

Emily Hammerman, B.A., is a proud graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Cinema Art + Science and a double minor in Dance and Fiction Writing. She works as a Marketing Intern for Catharsis Productions, a position that allows her to explore the intricacies of human behavior and relationships and create meaningful work to share with the community. An artist passionate about story, Emily finds inspiration in a variety of creative disciplines and draws from each to construct engaging characters, compelling relationships, and authentic narratives. As she continues to grow professionally, she hopes to educate and inspire audiences while further developing a unique voice and style!

 

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Minority stress and intimate partner violence in the LGBTQ community: Is there a connection?

PIRCResearch Summary

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We know that intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs in heterosexual relationships on college and university campuses, and there is a large body of research examining this phenomenon. IPV takes place in same-sex relationships as well: in a nationally representative survey of college and university students in same-sex relationships, 21% of respondents said that they had been victims of psychological violence in their relationships, and 24% had been victims of physical violence. Still, to date there has been far less research on IPV in same-sex relationships on college campuses than on IPV in heterosexual relationships. As a result, there is less information available on what factors may increase risk for IPV in same-sex relationships.

The risk factors for IPV are similar in same-sex and heterosexual relationships. However, minority stress factors in the LGBTQ community, such as sexual-orientation-related victimization, stigma surrounding sexual minorities, internalized homonegativity, and sexual identity concealment, pose additional risk. UNH psychologists Katie Edwards and Kateryna Sylaska hypothesized that minority stress—that is, stress factors that members of minority communities are likely to experience—plays a role in the perpetration of IPV in same-sex relationships. They surveyed a group of college students in same-sex relationships to test their hypothesis, and reported their results in the article “The Perpetration of Intimate Partner Violence among LGBTQ College Youth: The Role of Minority Stress,” which appeared in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence in 2013.

Edwards and Sylaska recruited 391 university students from across the US to participate in an online survey on IPV. All of the survey respondents were currently in relationships with people of the same sex. Their survey asked respondents whether they had used psychological, physical, sexual, and sexual orientation-related violence in their relationships, and also asked about the participants’ experience of both externalized and internalized minority stress variables. The minority stress variables that they asked about were victimization related to sexual orientation, the perception of prejudice or discrimination toward LGBTQ persons, internalized homonegativity, and identity concealment.

In their responses, 29.7% of the participants reported perpetrating some kind of violence against their partner. Edwards and Sylaska’s data showed a relationship between internalized homonegativity—that is, feeling guilty or ashamed about one’s sexual orientation—and physical and sexual violence perpetration. It also showed a relationship between sexual identity concealment and physical violence perpetration. Neither internalized homonegativity nor sexual identity concealment was related to psychological violence perpetration, and sexual identity concealment was not related to sexual violence perpetration.

In their discussion of the findings, Edwards and Sylaska make a point of mentioning that 73% of their respondents reported experiencing verbal or physical harassment related to their sexual orientation. Addressing and alleviating these minority stress factors is essential for preventing IPV among LGBTQ college students. Changing attitudes on a societal level to be more accepting and tolerant of sexual minority individuals and addressing the negative effects of these stresses through positive youth development programming for LGBTQ youth are a critical component to IPV prevention.


Edwards, K. M. & Sylaska, K. M. (2013). The perpetration of intimate partner violence among LGBTQ college youth: The role of minority stress. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42, 1721-1731. DOI 10.1007/s10964-012-9880-6