Did Dallas Police Chief Suggest That Women Were “Asking for It?”

I think I’m the only FFC blogger living in Texas, and I couldn’t have been more outraged when current Chief of Police David Brown made comments that seemed to blame drunk women for rapes, and their friends for not protecting them. Not, you know, the rapists.

This Jezebel article should give some context, and you can watch a video of Brown stumbling through his statement. He has since argued that his remarks were taken out of context and apologized.

I sat down with Bethany Anderson, blogger for D Magazine, about the piece she wrote about the remarks, and the flak she took. Bethany followed up with her own mea culpa, found here. Bethany writes for D Magazine’s blog Frontburner, and has worked at the Dallas Morning News and several other small Texas papers.

1. I know that you weren’t actually AT the City Council meeting, but how did watching that livestream make you feel?
To tell you the truth, I’m a contributor over at D. I have an actual day job, so I don’t really get to attend or watch many city meetings. I have to do most of my catching up for the magazine’s blog when I get home, or during lunch.

So it was the next day before I had a chance to read Andrea Grimes’ liveblogging of the meeting, on the Dallas Observer blog, Unfair Park. I had this immediate gut reaction, and in retrospect, I think I ultimately did our readers a disservice by not calming down before I wrote. I’ve been a writer for a long time, and my instinct really, is to ask questions. I didn’t this time, and I think my initial response reflected that. I am absolutely not blaming Andrea here. I want to make it clear. I do agree – to a point – that what he said was definitely a “Whoa” moment. But I’ve also thought about the context, and the circumstances surrounding it – a lot. In fact, it was the cause of a whole lot of insomnia this week.

That being said, I’ve gone over and over the video snippet. He did indeed say what he said. And you do get a whole other feel for it when you hear him say it – it was fumbling, if you will. But in stark black and white, as a transcript, it still can be a little bit of a sit up and go, “what?” But I think that if I had watched first, my response would’ve been more measured, like my second blog post.

2. What do you consider to be the difference between stranger rape and acquaintance or intimate partner violence?
I know a fair amount of rape victims. I think people are unaware – because it’s not really something women like to run around and talk about – how many women they know have been raped – whether by a stranger or an acquaintance. I also think people are unaware of this extra element that is stripped from you when you are raped by an acquaintance. It’s not just your body that is abused – it’s your trust. You lose friends – partly because you doubt the company you keep, and partly because some flat out won’t believe you. You’ll have a hard time getting justice. You have a hard time – and this is the most cruel, I think – trusting yourself. “Maybe I did lead him on. Maybe I could’ve said, “No,” better. Maybe I did kind of consent.”

With stranger rape, it’s a definite. This criminal attacked you and forced sex on you. There’s no chance to misconstrue or to paint it differently.

3. Do you think that Brown truly believes what he said, or that he just “misspoke” (as DPD is alleging)?
I’d like to be able to give him the benefit of the doubt, possibly because I’m impossibly Pollyanna-esque. I think he was nervous – this was quite possibly one of his first meetings where he was the guy who had to answer all the questions, and this was a giant one – how did rape in Dallas go up nearly 25%?

But I also know society. Just the other day, someone said they were told as a young woman that drinking, to men, equals open to the idea of sex. It has only been in the past two, three decades that date rape was even in the vernacular. There’s a lot of very old ideas that are still pretty firmly entrenched out there, and it’s going to take a lot more time and education for both men and women before we start to see a change in the mindset.

And then there’s the ugliness of the word itself. Rape. It conjures up really ugly feelings and visuals – even if you’ve never been raped. No man wants to entertain the possibility that he may have been too aggressive in getting sex from a date, and it may have been rape. Because that would make him a rapist. Because there is a lot of confusion out there about what date rape is, men do need to be educated. But the discussion sometimes causes a person to have to re-evaluate behavior, and that can be very uncomfortable.

So I think that, in some case, men think that the only thing they need to do is well, not rape a woman. So education for men as to what constitutes date rape is an afterthought, or not even thought of at all. When, in reality, so many people have no clue what the parameters are.

4. What did you think when Jezebel had picked up the coverage? I was thrilled.
I was interested to see their readers’ take on it. Jezebel has some of the wittiest commenters I’ve seen, and what surprised me was how measured some of them were.

5. What about the blame that was placed on bloggers in a blog by Steve Blow? How did that sit with you?
First, I have to point out that Steve Blow has done a lot of very good columns. There are some that are absolutely touching, and he has a knack for humanizing subjects. That being said, that’s his wheelhouse. I didn’t find it particularly edifying to be chastised by a man who just a few weeks prior cracked that it was “refreshing” to have see a priest perving on girls, instead of boys, and that maybe the solution to pedophile priests is to let priests marry.

Not to mention, if you blog, you’re a blogger. Which makes him one, too, since he posts on the Metro blog at the dallasnews.com.

I was also disappointed with Chief Brown’s response. People were and are obviously reacting to this. Many watched the video and still feel he misspoke. To me, that statement should’ve been, “I have become aware that my comments may have caused some to think I blame the victims of rape. I regret that anything I said may have sounded like that, because it couldn’t be farther from the truth. As chief, I remain committed to making every citizen of this city feel safe.” The end. To say bloggers, as if it was a epithet, rankled.

6. What do you think (either positively or negatively) will come out of this whole fiasco. Do you think women will start helping to protect other women, or will it result in continuation of status quo?
What I hope will happen is that both genders will re-evaluate their behavior. I do think there’s something particularly liberating about being able to protect yourself. But I also think that yes, we all should look out for each other. No matter what gender you are, if you notice someone slipping something in someone’s drink, say something. If you meet a wonderful person at a bar that happens to be a little inebriated, send them home in a cab – don’t take them home. And remember, rape isn’t just having sex with someone when they’ve said no – it’s also having sex with someone when they can’t say yes.

7. What are your suggestions to young women for safely going to clubs and bars?
Use some common sense. If the only parking is in some dark, remote corner, cough up the $10 and valet. If you’re going to go out alone, make sure you have a friend you can text every so often, or will text you to make sure you’re still OK. If you happen to meet that nice guy, if he’s really a nice guy, he’ll be nice tomorrow, too. Give him your digits and go home. Alone. In your car or a cab. And don’t let your drink out of your sight. And know your limits. Also, never, ever meet a new prospect at your home or his home, and never continue the date to one of those places, no matter how much he asks.

8. What kind of response did you receive from your piece on the story? Was there hate mail?
I was surprised. I got one piece of “you’re so stupid” mail, which I promptly replied to. He e-mailed back to tell me he appreciated me responding. I’ve gotten more e-mail praising me for being measured and fair, and for admitting where I was wrong. I live by a pretty strong motto – don’t expect anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do, too. I wanted Chief Brown to admit he fumbled a bit, but I also needed to admit I could’ve benefited from some time in the thinking chair myself.

9. What kind of action must be taken to decrease these numbers?
We need to approach this as a global problem. It’s not a girl problem – it’s a problem for every Dallas citizen. Even economically. Crime rates go up, it becomes more expensive to insure your house, or your car. Crime rates go up, and your property values drop. When you look at it from a criminal and economical aspect, it’s something we should all be rolling up our sleeves to do something about. Personally, if I see a situation that just doesn’t look right, I’m going to say something. Maybe if we all looked up from our iPhones and noticed our surroundings, we’d notice more. I think it also comes from a lot of common sense, too. Guys: If your date is a schnockered, the honorable thing would be to send her home in a cab, not take her to your bed.

10. Do you think the 25% spike was directly related to an increase in sexual assault, or is there another explanation?
I think you’ve got a mix of actual predators – people that look for the drunkest girl in the bar to “tap,” or the ones who slip things in girls’drinks. Then you’ve got the people who have confused post-coital regret with date rape. If you wake up the next morning and think, “Ugh, I slept with that moron?” chances are you’re embarrassed, not raped. And then you’ve got this weird middle ground of gray where people were drunk and nobody really knows for sure what happened. Remember, these are reported rapes, not convictions. Dependent on how convictions rise, fall, or stay flat, we’ll end up with a better, clearer picture of what is going on, too.

About Amy:
Amy is a social media strategist living in Dallas, Texas. She likes music, trashy TV, and ladybiz. tweet: @aemccarthy

Comments

  1. I don’t understand how the gist of Bethany’s answer to question 7 is any different that what Chief Brown said. I thought the whole idea of expecting a woman to assume some responsibility for her own safety and well being was what caused all the outrage in the first place?

  2. Lisa Tewksbury says:

    Seems very Sarah Palinish.

  3. freewomyn says:

    Great interview, Amy. I think that Chris asks a tough question. I think that everyone, not just women, need to think about how certain behaviors put you at risk. Binge drinking is a problem for everyone. Date rape drugs are a problem for everyone. Men can get raped, too – either by other men, or by women. And women can rape other women. I think that if we equalize the risks that this might change the discourse around rape. Everyone needs to be smarty about how they party. Period.

  4. My problem with Chris’s question is that it doesn’t take into account tone or context.

    Brown offered these remarks as an explanation for a TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT spike in sexual assaults. Telling women how to stay safe is not the same as using those tips as a justification for a statistical increase in assaults.

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