“We have to love each other. You hear me? It’s up to us.”

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.”

26 Comments

  1. Better question: police get reported for this sort of thing all the time, why simply post on Facebook about it when you can call a local news representative to draw attention to it and put pressure on the police station?

    There has to be a more proactive way of addressing something clearly unjust like this than making a “fight the power” status update on facebook? I completely agree with the poster, but take your own advice and look out for the community by reporting this shit.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Those cops are a disgrace to the profession and should be SO MANY THINGSED.

    I’m glad you stopped for the woman. I can’t imagine what an awful time she must have had, and good for you for doing what you could in what can only have been a very complicated-to-manage situation.

    Like

  3. Reblogged this on Beefy's House o' Fun and commented:
    You know, I’ve said it time and time again. I don’t trust cops. This is another reason why. This is truly disgusting. I know good cops are out there, but there aren’t enough of them. What year is this? Why are we still dealing with this crap? I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

    Like

  4. By way of response to some comments above, what my friend did or did not do is not the issue here. I was going to write a comment explaining who she is, going into some of the follow-up detail that came after she first shared the story, and defending her actions but: not the point. She is not the one whose actions are problematic in this story.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. Shocking! No matter where in the world you are, women are still treated as second-class citizens. I agree with Charmaine – it is up to all of us to make the difference. Relying on ‘people in power’ is clearly (as she witnessed), not going to get us, as women, anywhere. Sad that as far as women have come in this day and age, we are still treated badly – by each other and those whom we trust to protect us.

    I admire Charmaine for her actions.

    Like

  6. What? I have a hard time believing this story. In 2014 how can there be police officers (or human beings for that matter) who act like this? Just when I was starting to have faith in humanity again it blows up in my face. My heart goes out to the re-victimized woman.

    Like

  7. This is when I have to stop reading and watching for a while. The hopelessness that smacks me, hard, in the face when I hear about injustice this blatant and grotesque shocks and shames me. In person, in the moment, I help. Reading? I sink into impotence.
    What is there to do? What can we do? It only take a minute. We TALK. We TELL. We SHARE. As you have.
    Then we throw up from the anger and fear and shame. And then we talk some more. Loudly. Publicly.
    Gah. Patriarchy is dead, eh? And racism and subjugation? Is life really just one big game of calling out bullshit? Of course not. Because it’s not a game.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. So, I’m the writer of the original Facebook post, and the friend-who-should-keep-in-touch-with-Michelle-more. I just wanted to say that I’m glad Michelle has helped to spread this story, though deeply saddened about the circumstances that necessitate it.

    In response to @Belladonna Took, who told me that I SHOULDN’T HAVE FUCKING LEFT, well, you’re right. I shouldn’t have. I should have stayed, but in the moment, I didn’t have the presence of mind to reject the cop’s decision and decline to leave. Truth be told, I was scared. Cops scare me. I’m not white, so I don’t expect fair treatment from them by default. I’m also not a U.S. citizen, and frequently encounter situations as an activist in which the threat of arrest means deportation for me, so I am extra careful around the police. There are some privileges not afforded to me that made me nervous enough to not think straight in the thick of the moment, so I left, and I still feel crappy about it. I’ve since filed a police report, and am trying to figure out how to follow up on what happened with the case.

    For the record, though, I was on my way to join the picket line for the ongoing trucker strikes in LA. Where i was nearly run over by a car driven by an old white man who tried to mow down the picket line instead of respect it. So, I don’t know, the world rears its terrible face everywhere you look, and I just hope that where I failed in one expression of solidarity, I tried make up for in another. Not that this is about me.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. This story is amazing in its horrificness and also its loveliness. I’m so glad you were there for her. Solidarity from the Pacific Northwest.

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  9. @charmainechua – the issue is NOT what you did or didn’t do, and you shouldn’t “feel crappy” about having left (not that I want to tell you how to feel). I am a relatively fit white male and cops in American cities would scare me into acting cowardly in the face of intimidation. What you DID was publicize this so that there is greater awareness of the issues and so that one day we might live in a better world. We will, I know we will. Despite how it looks some times our world is gradually better every day. This story is terrible but there are countless other small victories taking place as well. Okay, sorry, rant over.

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  10. What have we got? The witnesse’s story and the victim’s story. Both might be true. They probably don’t lie. But, where’s the man in the van? What’s the cop got to say? I’m aware that the author of the post on FB is not a journalist, but there’s always this problem when only one side gets the say. I know a lor of cases when further investigation turned up important facts that altered the meaning of the whole. So far, I think, we got a complaint worth being investigated properly. This should be done. Just complaining is not enough to improve our society.

    Like

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