Jasmine Foo is a 14 year old Edmond native who's currently missing. She had alternative social networking profiles under the name of Jasmine Lloyd that stated she was 21 years old, and this weekend she went to a party and never returned home.
Yesterday, I stumbled across a photo of her on the Edmond Police Department's Facebook page; she was in the outfit she was believed to be wearing the night she went missing. I've always considered myself to be thick skinned, but what I saw was alarming. I sifted through comment after comment containing statements like "if she was dressed like that, she was asking for it," and "I hope she's found, but lying about her age and dressing that way has consequences." Sprinkled between these comments were statements from her classmates and friends, and I felt horrified for them. A young woman is missing, and the idea that any human being could go so far as to imply she somehow deserved it due to her attire is deplorable. I sat staring at my computer screen in morbid disbelief, and I felt as if I was morally obligated to defend her. I didn't do the mature thing, but perhaps ignorance about sexual assaults, abductions, and other crimes against women isn't something we should sit back and gracefully tolerate.
My father always taught me to keep my phone on at all times, to use the buddy system, that if something happened I should draw as much attention to myself as possible, and that my keys could be used as a weapon. I even know that divulging personal details about myself to an attacker could mean the difference between life and death, but what does that amount to after something like that happens despite efforts to prevent it?
The way I am dressed is never an invitation. The photos I post to my Facebook profile, even the one of me in my new swimsuit, are not an invitation. When we talk about these kinds of crimes, it is important that blame only be placed on the perpetrators and not the victims.
Every year, over a thousand women are raped in Oklahoma alone. Many were not attacked by some stranger on the street; in fact often times our attacker is someone we know, a person we trust. Victims of rape often suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, or guilt. Some of these women will even consider or attempt suicide. The idea that any reasonable member of society would further traumatize these women by stating that, in some way, they were "asking for it" is as terrifying as it is vile. Yet, it's happening, and the people responsible aren't necessarily who you imagine they would be.
Close your eyes and think of the kind of person who would intentionally make a victim of a crime like this feel as though she were somehow responsible. Hold that image. I imagine your villain is some dark, twisted person who doesn't have children and is incapable of understanding the fear women often live in. Sadly, they weren't masked, evil creatures of the night. They were normal men and women, and sadly many of these people were parents. During my interaction with one mother, she told me that the young woman and parents were to blame here; she indicated that the girl's attire was the reason she is currently missing. She informed me that she hopes the parents find her because she needs to be "slapped silly." Two were young men who appeared to be around Jasmine's age that simply commented that "she probably did get raped." One comment posted by a young man was a single word: "sexy." Are you as surprised as I am?
Now imagine for a moment you're Jasmine's parents, and you're looking at a photo of your daughter on the Edmond Police Department's Facebook page reading that your little girl was asking for it, that this horrible ordeal is somehow your fault. Imagine for just a second that you're that little girl, that you're possibly hurt, and the people you hope are out looking for you are saying that something like this wouldn't have happened to you if you'd just dressed more conservatively. What does it feel like?
It is imperative that we end this poisonous attitude towards women. We need to talk about this as opposed to pretending it doesn't exist. If you have children, talk to them about sexual assault and other crimes. Talk to your daughters about assault prevention. Tell them that if something like this happens to them or a friend that they should never be afraid to get help. More importantly, talk to your sons about consent. Tell them that rape isn't something to joke around about or take lightly. When you're listening to the radio in the car and you hear a song like Drake's "HYFR" that speaks about giving a woman a "pill" and then undressing her, make sure you let your children know that something like that is never okay.
It's time we have a frank and honest discussion with society. Our attackers will not choose to assault us based on our clothing. Our attackers will not choose to attack us because we lied about our age; in fact, our age is irrelevant to them. A rapist doesn’t always know he is a rapist because they don't always know that being intoxicated doesn't mean we consent. More importantly, the victims of these crimes deserve respect and compassion; the victims of these crimes have nothing to be ashamed of.
Our prayers are with Jasmine's family, and we hope she returns home safely. If you have any information, please call the Edmond Police Department.