The buzz around town is the release of a “high risk sex offender”. Here is the link: High Risk Sex Offender Released in Burlington, if you would like to read more. Surely you have seen this already as it has been all over the news and social media.
The fear is real.
Today, we have had a record number of requests for our women’s self-defense classes. I can’t even respond to them all. Individuals, companies, mothers and daughters, groups of friends; women of all ages who share one thing:
Their fear is real.
I have a daughter who lives downtown and I know several young women who live there as well.
MY fear is real.
Not only has the news been covering this man’s release, but various police departments have been posting tips for women on how to keep yourself safe. On the surface, this is great. Below the surface, it is beyond infuriating. Look at this detailed page of well intentioned tips.
It is a very long list of what women should or should not do. Let me get this straight: a high risk offender is released, and now I—and all women–have even more things to do. His freedom has cost me mine.
Aren’t we missing the point with these lists?
Truthfully, I wasn’t really free anyway. These lists aren’t new. I grew up with lists of things that girls/women should or should not do regarding our safety and many, many other things. Perhaps you did too.
I think we are making lists for the wrong people. To borrow a quote that I heard at a wonderful UVM conference yesterday on “Dismantling Rape Culture”:
Rather than learning to accept the things that we cannot change, we need to change the things that we cannot accept.”
I cannot accept that the best that we can do is to make lists for women or other potential victims. This only underestimates the power of men in being an instrumental part of the solution and it ignores the bigger picture of our culture and community. And it places the responsibility for safety on the potential victim rather than on the perpetrator who actually owns responsibility for his/her actions.
We can do better. If we must make a list, let’s make one for how we can create a community of respect, connection, peace and safety.