[Trigger Warning–this post is about rape culture, including victim blaming.]
Today is the anniversary of the 1964 rape and murder of Catherine (Kitty) Genovese. The astounding account of her story has had a couple of major effects. It inspired psychological research into the bystander effect, the impulse not to do anything to intervene when witnessing something wrong happening based on the assumption that someone else will. And her story has been used as an iconic cautionary tale. It’s been that one specific example that sticks in your mind and implicitly teaches us women, “don’t walk alone at night, or else you will be raped and murdered, and no one will help you”. You won’t deserve to die for walking alone at night, but… The rapist/murderer will definitely be at fault, but– why didn’t you… but you shouldn’t have… but don’t be surprised if…
One day last summer, I discovered that men don’t learn this lesson. It doesn’t sift down into the core of their set of knowledge about the world. The importance of staying safe by not tempting fate doesn’t fill the air around them until it becomes nearly invisible, yet tints everything they see.