And while we’re on the topic….
Louise Livesey // 8 May 2008
there comes news of this case from the US in which a woman fought off a sexual assault assailant, only to be punished by a crowd of laughing men with a second sexual assault. Melissa Bruen was walking home during spring break along a path known as “The Rape Trail” because it leads to off-campus accommodation for University of Connecticut where big parties happen. Whilst talking on the phone to a friend, Bruen was dragged to her feet, pinned against a telephone pole and “dry humped” by an unknown assailant. Bruen fought back despite her assailant’s jeers that she was just being “feisty” – she managed to pin him to the ground and punch him in the face and stomach. A crowd of men had gathered by this point (not one of them trying to stop the crime in front of her) and when her assailant broke free and ran off complaining she had attacked him the crime got even worse.
Bruen reported to the crowd that he had just sexually assaulted her to which one man replied “You think that was assault?”. He then pulled down her top and forcibly grabbed her breasts. The crowd yelled in pleasure completely ignoring that Bruen was being sexually assault seemingly for their viewing pleasure. Bruen reported the attacks to the Police but the crowds made it impossible for Police to single out her attacker(s) (mind they could just have arrested them all – I’m with Jackie Fleming on this, if men can’t be trusted out at night, don’t let them onto the streets).
1. Bruen did everything right and was punished for it making clear that women asserting themselves and denying men’s “rights” of access to their bodies often ends up with their suffering even more.
2. The statistics we have on the prevalence of sexual assault hide the fact that often women are victims of multiple attacks over their lifetime – so yes 1 in 5 women might experience sexual violence in their lifetime but how many times is the real question. Sexual violence generally isn’t a “once in a lifetime” experience – it’s repeated by the same and by different perpetrators over women’s lifecourses.
3. It’s not just the assailants to blame in this, the crowd jeered them on. And they will, in all liklihood, go unpunished because they could sink back into the crowd of men for protection.
4. Whether we face up to it or not, sexual violence is still seen as sexy. Think about the Vegas story earlier this week, think about this one, then tell me they aren’t essentially about the same thing – male power and the presumption of women’s silence and obedience.