Friday, September 18, 2009

OK State Woman Fights Victim-Blaming

Oklahoma State University PhD candidate, Karen Sisk, recently wrote an article in the Daily O'Collegian about VH1 cancelling its show, "Meagan Wants a Millionaire," following a contestant's alleged murder of his wife.

Upon the article's publication, Ms. Sisk received comments and feedback excusing the murder of of Ms. Fiore (the victim), saying such abhorrent things as, "If you put your man down in public, you should probably expect that he will kill you, mutilate your body, and leave it in a Dumpster. She was ASKING for it!"

While she could have simply shaken her head in disgust and moved on, Ms. Sisk took it a step further and bravely re-addressed the issue, exposing her own deeply personal connection to the story.

Here is Karen Sisk's second article in its entirety:

When I wrote my last column about Ryan Jenkins’s alleged murder of his wife, Jasmine Fiore, I got an interesting response online.

Someone believed that Fiore deserved what she got for the way she treated Jenkins. Her behavior was apparently a good reason for her to expect a violent outcome.

News reports said Fiore maintained friendships with several of her former flames and might have had physical relationships with one or more of them.

She should have known better than to cheat on a psychopath, apparently.

News reports also said Fiore repeatedly insulted Jenkins at a poker party the night before her disappearance. She also should have known better than to insult him.

Obviously, this behavior was grounds for her to wind up mutilated in a dumpster, right?

This response shocked me. Not because I do not know that people have these sorts of reactions — I am well aware that they do. But, because people usually do not intimate them, refusing to come right out and say them.

As a culture, we tend to blame women for being the victims of violent crimes. They should know better because men will take advantage of situations to do us harm. We should protect ourselves from them.

I would love to see this attitude change. Women do not deserve to be harassed, stalked, raped, beaten or killed no matter what they have worn, said, imbibed or done. The worst a woman — or anyone — deserves is to be broken up with. If Fiore behaved in a way that was unacceptable to Jenkins, he should have broken off their relationship.

She should not have wound up in a dumpster mutilated to the point where police used the serial numbers on her breast implants to identify her.

I say this not only as a woman but also as a survivor of sexual and physical violence.

I have spent years in therapy trying to figure out what I could have done differently to avoid being raped by the first person I was ever involved with. But, it was not my fault. I was the victim of a predator. Now, I am a survivor.

When I was 14, I was a shy, awkward and unpopular girl. When a 20-year-old man I met at a friend’s house paid attention to me, I was over the moon. I did not know how different 14-year-old girls were from 20-year-old men. So, I started dating him, and he started brainwashing me.

He convinced me to lie to my parents about his age, job and schooling. He sent me lavish presents and followed me everywhere I went. The only thing I had done to get his attention was to be in the wrong place at the right time to meet him.

Within a month, the unwanted sexual activity began, and it lasted for almost two years. After the relationship ended, I successfully prosecuted him. He was sentenced to two years in prison for the two years of my life he stole from me.

However, he only served a year and began stalking me upon his release — even showing up at my high school graduation. Luckily, the police department quickly helped me get a restraining order.

As difficult as it was to endure, the most difficult part was and continues to be my father’s reaction to the entire situation. He blamed me. He told me that I should have known better. He did not support me prosecuting my abuser and did not come to the trial.

For years, his attitude kept me from healing. It still holds me back. It was something I was unable to resolve with him before he passed away from lung cancer nine years ago. It has taken me much of that time to work toward forgiving him.

Unfortunately, my father held an opinion many hold when dealing with victims and survivors of any kind of violence. He assumed that I must have said, done or worn something that led my abuser to abuse me. My father assumed that a 14-year-old girl was savvy enough about men and sexuality to make her own decisions about her body.

Sadly, he is in the majority, not the minority. I did not do anything that made me deserve the abuse I received. I didn’t know my own rights over my body. What my father never understood was that my choice was taken from me. I was powerless. But he blamed me, assuming that I could have done something different.

Fiore did not deserve to die anymore than I deserved two years of sexual abuse. No one deserves rape, violence or death no matter what she has done or to whom she has done it.

Photo credit: flickr.com/ben pollard

1 comment:

wyndechilde said...

It's amazing to me that since I became involved in women's rights in the early 70's (at OSU!), so little progress has been made on this front. I see movement, and know far more people now than I did then who believe that "she must have asked for it" isn't a valid justification.

I'm so proud of the young feminists today who have accomplished so much, and continue to battle for women's rights, political, workplace, and physical. Hang in there, girls...you make one heck of a difference, even though it often doesn't seem so.