[Content note: violence against women, apologism]
I'm scared of dying.
Not in the existential "what happens AFTER?" sense, but in the "someone else could cause me real pain before killing me" sense. I have good reason for it - I exist in this world as a woman. That means I am under constant threat of violence, and also of being blamed for the violence that happens to me.
So I take steps to try and keep violence as far away from me as possible.
Before every date, I leave information about the man I’m seeing – in my room, on Twitter, on my computer – so the police will have something to go on if they find my body.
I tell my parents or my best friend where I’m going and what time I plan on being home. I then check in with them when I get home.
I do my best to look nice (it is a date after all), but I never wear heels because I can’t run in them, no matter how awesome they make my legs look.
I never move to a second location with a man without texting someone first. Someone always knows where I am when I’m out with a man I don’t know.
I don’t drink alcohol on dates. Even before I got on medication that can’t be mixed with alcohol, I refuse to drink because I want my wits about me at all times.
I drive myself to first dates 95% of the time – I never leave myself without an escape route.
My cell phone doesn’t get turned off on dates, even if we’re seeing a movie (and I don’t do movies on the first date anyway because dark, noisy theaters hide a lot of things).
Speaking of, first dates are always – always – coffee in a public place. If other people aren’t around, I make sure to be friendly to the barista so I can ask them for help later if I need it.
My drink doesn’t leave my hand – which is easier with coffee. I get it in a to-go cup with a lid and keep the lid opening toward me at all times.
I’ve done everything right I possibly can, even what some might call overkill. And I’ve still had a man shove me into a corner of a glass walled elevator in an attempt to feel me up as he was walking me back to my car – supposedly for my own safety.
So, no, Frank Warren of Post Secret, women don’t need reminders about the potential for violence. It’s our daily reality.
The following exchange with Frank Warren occurred this afternoon, over email.
Hope you don't mind me reaching out to you here. 140 characters can be the perfect length to be misunderstood. I understand that you do not agree with my action to post the body card but please do not assume you know my intention.
Likewise, I am sorry if I sound like I am patronizing or blaming the victim because I have learned, for myself, that hurt and violence is more likely to come from friends and family than strangers, that was a personal revelation to me from reading so many secrets. In other ways too I believe expressing secrets can be healthy for the person and the community. Keeping them in the closet isn't always the best idea.
Anyway, I appreciate your passion and options. Being a Berkeley graduate and having a daughter in the Bay Area I have strong feelings about freedom of speech.
Thank you for writing me. I believe in free speech, too, but I also believe in a responsibility to use our speech in healthy, productive ways. Posting that card did not do a good job to honor that burden.
Here's what you should have done:
1. Consulted a lawyer.
2. Gone to the police.
3. Reported it to the post office (which is a federal agency that can research this).
4. Handled it as little as possible.
Basically, everything but what you did in posting it and letting Reddit handle it. Reddit, who famously bungled the Boston bombing and accused a totally innocent man.
I've been working in advocacy surrounding violence against women and intimate partner violence for about three years now, and have the experience of 27yrs of being a woman constantly aware of the threat of violence on my life.
Your patronizing words that "maybe it will remind women about violence" are a poor justification of making a game of intimate partner violence. By posting that secret, you turn a woman's tragedy into a fun game for bored Internet "sleuths."
You did the wrong thing, and you absolutely need to apologize. It's not that you "sound like" you're blaming the victim - your rhetoric is literally doing that. When men like yourself say that women need a reminder about the constant threat of violence in their lives, it says that if we don't take every precaution we can, we are to blame for what happens. Believe me when I say that this "she didn't remember about the potential for violence" has been used by defense attorneys, police officers, and family and friends to shame a victim of violence into not reporting, into believing that they were at fault for their attacks, into stay with their eventual murderer.
I beg of you to realize that your words and actions harmed people today, regardless of your intention. At the best, you made a joke of domestic violence. At the worst, you just prevented a victim's family from obtaining justice.
At this point, I understand if you are angry with me. But my journalistic ethics demand that I ask - do I have your permission, should the situation arise, to post your email to me?
I appreciate your well stated thoughts and feelings on this. You obviously know more about DV than I do so this is healthy for me to see.
I would like to post the part of your message that deals with the secret on the bottom of the website if that is okay with you.
Can you send my email back so I can review it before you post any of it. Like all of us, sometimes I type fast and want to be sure that nothing will be misunderstood in this heated environment.
Hi Frank,Your email is below. If you do post my response, please include a link to a blog I wrote expounding on the "reminders" about VAW: [link to this post]
I have posted the parts of your message that address the first secret on the blog. If for any reason you want me to remove your thoughts just email me and I will take them down.
Based upon past experience and the anonymity of PostSecret, I would rather not have your name on the piece or the link to your blog. I would like to send a tweet with your VAW link though if that is okay.
I am uncomfortable with you quoting anything I have sent you but because I have posted your comments I will not ask you not to post mine. I would prefer we have an open conversation though.
I am certainly not perfect and have things to learn, but you might be surprised if you knew me better and the work of PostSecret over its 9 year history. If you have any interest, here is a TED talk I gave, and last week I had a conference call with a V-Day team about a future collaboration between PostSecret and One Billion Rising.
Though I am not particularly comfortable with my words being used without attribution (funny that the guy who runs it is the only one who gets to be named), it seems that permission to post these emails would be revoked should I push the issue. As it is, here is the full context, in a non-ephemeral form (as my email critique will disappear from the Post Secret site next week as it is).
The list of things Frank should have done in my initial reply to him is a variation on tweets from @shaileygb . I should have attributed them in my original email, and did not (thus doubling my offense when I copied and pasted them to my blog). I apologized that this action on my part contributed to the trend of white feminists co-opting the words of women of color, and I sincerely apologize to @shaileygb for my actions.