January 19, 2010

Don’t travel alone…in a movie theatre?

Posted in Current Events, Myths, Victim Blaming at 5:41 pm by sacetalks

As I was compiling the weekly news post last week, I came across an article that perfectly illustrates why giving safety tips is such a useless exercise when it comes to preventing sexual assault.  The story is about a man being charged after he sexually assaulted a woman in a movie theatre in Ontario. The woman was watching a movie with friends when the man seated next to her “touched her in an inappropriate way several times before moving seats,” according to the news report.
Most women would assume that attending a movie with friends would meet up with all the approved “safety precautions” that are so often given to us, particularly in news reports about sexual assault. However, according to the article, the police would like to remind us that women should keep a few things in mind when they head to the theatre. These suggestions seem particularly appropriate to going to the movies:
Always be aware of your surroundings
Because when you’re at a movie, you shouldn’t let yourself be distracted by the film playing up on the screen! Make sure you spend the entire two hours looking around to make sure none of the other patrons are going to touch you without your consent.
Whenever possible, travel in pairs
Never leave the theatre to get popcorn without taking a buddy with you. That’s why women never go to the bathroom alone.  Besides, you shouldn’t go to movies by yourself. That makes you a lonely spinster who can’t get a date, and you wouldn’t want that, now would you?
If you are touched in an inappropriate manner, ask for assistance and contact police
Inappropriate. Hmmm. There’s an appropriate way to touch a person you don’t know in a movie theatre? But seriously, by the time a woman gets out of the theatre, finds someone from the staff to help her (which will probably involve convincing them that she really does need help), and then waits for police to respond to a call, the offender will likely be gone. I am glad in this case that they caught the guy and that the police have taken it seriously, but in a lot of cases like this, women ask for help and never get it.
Try and obtain the best possible description of the person
This might be difficult in a dark room, especially if you’re trying to get away and go get that help as was suggested in the last tip.
Carry a cellphone
So those ads at the beginning of the movie to turn off your phone are really a lure! Carry your cellphone and make sure you have it ready to use at all times. Forget all that movie theatre etiquette.
Trust your intuition. If something tells you a person or situation isn’t right, it likely isn’t
Most of us are socialized to expect that places like movie theatres are safe. We are accustomed to sitting beside strangers at a movie. Even if that person seems a little odd, that’s just part of being in a public space. We don’t tend to get up and move away unless the person is acting very strangely or is wearing too much cologne or something. It’s just part of the whole movie thing. Telling women they are supposed to somehow intuitively know that the person next to them at the movies is creepy is completely victim blaming.
As women, we are taught to fear so many things that many of us feel like something isn’t right in almost every situation. Tips like these don’t help–they just teach us to look for the danger everywhere and avoid even the most mundane activities without a crowd around to protect us. And if we do trust our gut and avoid a person, we’re told we’re not giving them a chance or we’re just being paranoid. We can’t win.
Women should be able to go to the movies without worrying that the man next to them will grope them. They shouldn’t need to keep their cellphones at the ready or avoid seeing movies by themselves. For once, I’d like to see an article like this followed by a police officer cautioning potential offenders on how to see movies without sexually assaulting other people in the audience.
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1 Comment »

  1. Pragya - SACE Public Educator said,

    this is awesome!!!


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