You’ve been in this situation.
It’s the weekend. Or a Wednesday night, after a long day at the office. The day and time doesn’t matter.
You’re out with a group of friends; one, three, ten — there’s no difference. You’re at a restaurant, a bar, someone’s house, walking down the street; for the purposes of this post, your location means nothing because you could be anywhere.
You’re enjoying dinner, maybe a glass or two of the house wine. Sharing laughs. Talking about how the kids are driving you crazy or telling a funny story that happened during the week at school or work. Maybe you’re consoling a friend who just got dumped or celebrating a promotion or maybe it’s just been One Of Those Weeks.
And during all this, some guy notices you. Makes a comment. An invitation.
You decline his offer, return your attention to your friends.
It’s closing time and you leave with your friends — after all, safety in numbers — and what the hell, that same guy approaches you again.
And again you tell him you’re not interested, or get lost, or sorry, pal or I told you no, or whatever it is you say in hopes the guy just leaves you the hell alone.
And then he pulls out a gun.
Shoots you dead.
I didn’t know Janese, yet I haven’t been able to get her out of my mind since reading Pittsburgh author Damon Young’s article reacting to her death. This is a tragedy that resonates with me, deeply.
It feels familiar to me, and maybe it does to you, too. Maybe that’s because at one time or another — even if it has been years since we’ve been the object of a random guy’s attention — we have all been Janese. Because if we really stop and think about it, many of us can recall a similar scenario from our own lives like what happened to Janese on Friday night in Pittsburgh.
And that’s one of the things that is so very important here.
This sense of entitlement that some men have over women is all too common. The only proof that’s needed for that are the sobering statistics for sexual assault, rape, harassment, stalking, domestic violence and other crimes against women. Crimes that are reaching epidemic proportions in this country.
What’s it going to take for this to stop? Is the life of a 29-year-old mother — Janese had three-year-old twin daughters and an infant son — so disposable to justify being killed just because she said no?
I’m not naive enough to think that this kind of violence will someday end. I don’t think we’re even close to a world where that is remotely possible.
Every woman, every man, every child, every person has a God-given right to say no and to be heard.
We need to do our part in educating our daughters and our sons that this is unacceptable. To remember that a person isn’t just an object, but someone with a life and who is connected to many, many other lives.
One more thing: it’s easy to slip into holier-than-thou, judgment mode in situations like this. So easy. She shouldn’t have been out at 2 a.m. (You’ve never stayed out past midnight?) She has young children; she should have been home taking care of them instead of at a bar. (How many photos of women celebrating yet another Girls Night Out clutter up your Facebook feed every Friday night?) I wonder what she was wearing. (Doesn’t matter if she was wearing a skin-tight leopard dress or a goddamned paper bag.) Maybe she spoke to him disrespectfully. (She said no. That’s all that should have been needed.)
We are fooling ourselves if we think what happened to Janese wouldn’t or couldn’t happen in our circle of friends, or to us. Because it has, and it did, and it most certainly will again.
We are all Janese.