By Emily Feldmesser
The rape of 14-year-old Daisy Coleman by 17-year-old Matthew Barnett in Maryville, Mo., has captured the nation’s attention.
Barnett wasn’t charged with statutory rape. According to Missouri law, the victim has to be younger than 14 or the perpetrator older than 21. Barnett’s family is also politically influential in the area.
Ever since the rape, Coleman and her family were driven out of their home. Her mother was fired from her job and their house was burned down in retaliation for coming forward with these allegations. But Coleman is staying strong and speaking out against her attacker.
I feel like these kinds of stories are a constant mainstay in news media. It’s nothing new—every year, assaults and attacks happen and go unreported.
And with the prevalence of social media, even the victims do not retain their privacy—The attacks in Maryville and Steubenville, Ohio, were both filmed.
But that’s another issue itself. What I want to talk about is rape. It’s a scary word with horrible consequences. But it’s a real issue.
Instead of teaching women not to get raped, we need to teach men not to rape. I laugh as I say this because to me, it’s common sense. I don’t understand why we would need to teach common sense, but I guess it’s necessary.
When I go out, I’m always conscious of what I’m doing, how I dress, how I dance and how I act. I don’t want to “entice” the men around me to “make” them do something I wouldn’t want them to. Because, you know, men can’t control themselves around a woman dancing in a bar. Right? It’s the woman’s fault for wearing a short skirt, for drinking a bit too much or for dancing too provocatively. Right?
No. It’s not the woman’s fault. She should act however she wants to. She should be able to walk home safely at night.
But she can’t. She has to be aware of the men out there who don’t respect women. She has to be careful of the men who grab and grope at her at the bar. She has to watch out for the guys who catcall her while she’s walking to work.
I’m sick of it. Why do people have to tell me how to dress, who to hang out with, when I can go out or how to live my life? I cannot and will not live for someone else.
Women are in control of their own bodies and their own lives. They can choose whom they sleep or don’t sleep with. A woman saying no doesn’t mean “try again.” It means no. If women want to walk home by themselves at night, they should be able to without constantly checking over their shoulder to see if someone is following them.
Women should be able to feel safe, no matter where they are or whom they are with. Women should be respected and cared for in the community.