I wanted to throw up.
My friend shared the news about the death of Ruth George on her Facebook page. Since I had not heard what happened, I went looking.
In an online story, the Chicago Tribune reports that Ruth George, an honor student at the University of Illinois at Chicago campus was killed Saturday night.
According to the story, Cook County prosecutors allege that Ruth George’s accused killer grew angry when she ignored his repeated attempts to talk. He followed Ruth into a parking garage. There he attacked her. Prosecutors report he dragged Ruth to her car where he sexually assaulted her. She died from strangulation.
After I read the story, I returned to my friend’s Facebook page. I noted that the story broke my heart.
My first reaction, however, was an urge to throw up.
The attitude that men are entitled to the attention of women, which is an element of rape culture, lies behind this horrific incident. And that sickens me.
A woman refusing to speak to a man is no reason for the man to respond in anger. But too often men do.
Men have no right to women’s conversation, time, attention, bodies, anything. The presumption that we do is wrong and must be challenged and changed.
Women do not have to speak to men … do not have to speak to men they know … do not have to speak to men they don’t know … do not have to speak to men.
No is always an appropriate answer. No talk. No interaction. No touching. No sex. No anything. No everything. No is always an appropriate answer without exception and with no explanation needed.
No means no. The challenge to men is to recognize the meaning of no … to understand the need for consent … and to honor no and consent.
We (speaking as a man) must guide our lives by the standard of no and consent. We must hold one another to the standard of no and consent. We must teach the standard of no and consent to our sons.
My heart does break. For Ruth George and her family and friends. For the University of Illinois at Chicago community. For all the women who are victims of similar horrors. For my friend (I have since learned that Ruth George was a student of my friend). For the harm rape culture and male entitlement does to us all.
We can do better. Let’s get to it.
Note: written in the heat of the moment in response to the killing of Ruth George by a cis hetero male, this reflection takes a binary point of view. A more nuanced reflection would recognize that this issue impacts people across every sexual orientation and gender identity.