My friend-who-I don’t-keep-in-touch-with-as-much-as-I-should Charmaine Chua posted this story on Facebook earlier today. I read it, threw up in my mouth a little, read it again, and threw up a little more.
I asked her if I could share it. At the risk of causing you to throw up in your mouth as well, here it is.
“This morning, as I was driving out of my neighborhood, a beige van stopped in front of me and threw a woman onto the road, flinging a bunch of belongings out with her. She was lying the middle of the road screaming, crying for help, and clutching her purse to her chest to cover herself because she didn’t have a shirt on. I stopped my car, took note of the van’s license plate before it sped off, gathered her things off the road, gave her a sweater to put on, and tried to calm her down while someone called 911.
Between screams and sobs she told me that the man in the van had stalked her for over a year, kidnapped her last night, and then tried to kill her. She showed me a deep gash on her leg and said that he had put a knife to her back. She screamed in fear whenever a male bystander walked close or tried to talk to her, and would only tell me and another woman what was going on. I noticed that among the things the man had thrown out of the van was a used condom. Everything about her (and his) behavior suggested she’d been assaulted.
Then the cops arrived. Two got to questioning the woman – rather sternly. The intent was not to comfort. One told me that they located the van and had stopped the driver for questioning. I asked him if they needed a statement as I was first on the scene. He said no, that I could leave but he would take my phone number just in case.
And then do you know what he did? He rolled his eyes towards the woman and then winked at me conspiratorially. “Anyway, I doubt anything happened,” he said. “She’s just probably on drugs or something.” Another conspiratorial smile. “We’ll get the story from the man and find out what’s going on.” I pressed the issue and said that her behavior suggested she had legitimately been attacked. I told him about the condom on the road if they needed any evidence of assault. “Oh, ok,” he said, barely caring. He stressed, “Like I said, probably nothing happened.” I shouldn’t have left, but I didn’t know what else I could do, so I did.
A few things, though none are perhaps a surprise:
1) The implicit suggestion of “we’ll get the story from the man” seemed to me to be “we’ll hear what THE MAN has to say, THEN we’ll decide on the reliability of THE WOMAN’S claims.”
2) I’m pretty sure that if the victim had been white and well-dressed, the response to the alleged kidnapping would have been very, very different. Instead, because she was Latina and looked working class, the cops took one look at her and approached her with far more suspicion than you could ever imagine one might approach a potential rape victim.
3) BUT OH WAIT. This behavior exhibits the standard, all-too-familiar, far-too-common response to rape victims. “Surely he couldn’t have done that…” “She must be on drugs…” “It’s probably a misunderstanding.” It’s the woman’s fault, or she’s imagining things. It’s not that there’s a potential threat to someone’s life – it’s that she’s crazy, which is probably what got her thrown into the middle of a road by a potential murderer in the first place. Right? It must be her own fault.
THIS, my friends, this is the world we live in. Where we entrust the protection and safety of the people into the hands of police forces that will only pay attention if you look like you’re worth their time. Where the quickest snap judgement about someone’s skin color or appearance validates how a person of authority chooses to treat those they ‘protect and serve’ – whether to doubt them, ignore them, laugh them off, or listen to them.
All of which is to say, after this, after Mike Brown, after Ferguson, after all the shit you’ve heard, if you’re still looking to the state or to law and order to provide you the kinds of protections you think you deserve, you’re looking in the wrong place. WE have to protect each other. We have to look out for each other. We have to love each other. You hear me? It’s up to us.”