Two Argentinian women were brutally murdered in Ecuador after they refused their attackers sexual advances and fought to not get raped. The mysoginistic Latin American press made the mistake of labeling the news “Women Traveling Alone…”. The fact is there were two of them so it is preposterous to assume they were alone as they had each other. At 22 and 21 years of age, Marina Menegazzo and María José Coni set out to see the world and it ended up costing them their lives. The kicker? People around the world are saying they asked for it! Wow! No woman, let alone any person, should be blamed for being killed especially while on holiday. Murder victims never ask for their demise. They are victims; their lives mattered.
An open letter written in Spanish from the perspective of the victims made me realize how people in our culture are quick to judge the victim, blamimg them for the crimes commited against them or for putting themselves in harm’s way. In the case of women, we see them as property or items that need to be protected, even against their own free will. Abortion is a woman’s right yet it has become a women’s health issue of public domain. We tell our girls to be nice and complacent, to not fight back or advocate for their dreams or preferences because “someone might get mad and hurt you”. On that same train of thought, we continue to tell young women to dress prudently and modestly to avoid calling attention to themselves. We condemn rape and abuse victims based on what they wore or what they said. For society’s sake, women that stand out, do things alone or at certain hours deserve whatever they get, especially if they are away from home.
Thinking that a woman needs protection and male companionship is incorrect in so many levels that my words fail to describe the anger and disgust I feel when people tell me I shouldn’t provoke an attack by becoming a target. In certain situations, my male escorts have become the bad guys they were tasked to protect me from. Considering spouses or significant others are the number one cause of death for pregnant women, we must be in denial when stating the problem is the ladies. I would feel safer if my entourage consisted of female friends or guards. Through my own life experiences I have learned that anyone can be a victim of an attack and everyone has the potential to become an aggressor under the right conditions. We are never safe from each other and ironically, we are definitely safer alone.
Safety is an illusion. One that can be broken easily by someone else’s poor judgmet regardless of your cautious nature. Unless you are out there actively looking for trouble, it is easy to become a victim. It comes down to opportunity and intent. If anyone aludes to the contrary they are lying and manipulating you to brush off the problem or remain in their ignorantly blissful state. The truth is hard to swallow especially for the women and men taught that there is a safe side to play, that if you do things the right way no harm will come to you. There’s nothing you can do to avoid becoming a target if you are born female.
My single and married friends travel all the time without their significant others or spouses. They don’t need a man, much less “their man”, to complete their business travel, enjoy a vacation or visit family. We don’t need a bodyguard 24/7 to shoo away predators and indecent proposals. As rational beings we can navigate the world just as well as men do, and sometimes better. I can carry my own luggage, book a taxi and walk around a foreign city without “asking for it”. All we want is to travel, work and experience life in peace. We want you to respect our freedom and our choices. We want to walk the streets in foreign and known lands and not worry about not making it back home.
Daughters, sisters, mothers and friends, women never travel alone, they just travel. Period. If you fear for a woman’s safety, teach her how to defend herself, how to spot danger and how to diffuse a difficult situation, or even better, teach your sons, husbands, brothers and male friends to not rape, murder, injure, harass or threaten their female counterparts when they are “alone”. If you see anyone acting menacingly against any person, let them know you don’t appreciate their conduct, report them and get their victim to safety. Don’t turn a blind eye to the dangers of life and of those endangered amongst us. All we have on this spinning rock is each other.