Stay Safe, Sisters

I have always wondered what it is about criminals that fascinates people. Specifically how their fascination increases with the more mind-boggling and cruel crimes that are committed, and better yet, what motivates criminals to act. However, in my free time I have recently found myself searching for documentaries that cover these topics. The first of these weird indulgences was the notorious and devilishly charming Ted Bundy. The Netflix special that discussed his confession tapes intrigued me, which is ironic given the fact that college-aged girls like myself were often the victims of his brutal acts. 

The documentary poses potential explanations for why he would take up these actions, and some of them are rooted in various mental issues and trauma. However, what was more intriguing was what sparked each of his attacks. Almost unfailingly, every time that he murdered another woman, it was entirely an angered reaction to being rejected by a different female prior to their encounter. Essentially, his acts were those of sexual frustration and a coping mechanism for rejection. This, as a female, is the terrifying part of the documentary. 

(Side note: For some reason, I was also watching this with my best friend before I went out to the frats one night, and if that is not the worst pregame activity you have ever heard, then I just really do not know what is.)

Another documentary that I have been indulging in is the one that features R. Kelly’s survivors speaking out about their experiences and the long history of abuse that he has committed against women in his life. The terrifying thing (one of many) about this documentary is the level of support that he was able to attain both from his employees and fans after these secrets started coming out about his obsession with young girls. R. Kelly’s problem was supposedly rooted in his childhood, during which he himself was sexually abused. His subsequent abuse of the countless girls that fell into his grasp was then essentially a way for him to regain the control that he felt he had lost during his childhood.

These are the types of criminals that fascinate the minds of a lot of college-aged people. I believe this is because we are all largely in the time of our lives where we are primed to figure out the world around us and our place within it. On a very elementary level in this regard, I believe that finding out more about criminals like the two aforementioned allows college kids to create an internal comparison to know that they are not like those people. Girls specifically are more inclined to finding out more about these criminals (whether it is through Netflix documentaries or otherwise) because girls are told their whole lives to be cautious around certain people, during certain times of the day, in certain places in order to avoid the same types of situations that both Ted Bundy and R. Kelly were able to create, in order to victimize unsuspecting females.

The frustration comes to play in my own life, not a Netflix show. When I am simply going on a run in broad daylight around the perimeter of my school, and I am followed almost the entire way by a man in a car, or I hear about another person being attacked in Overton Park, or find out about another sexual assault that occurred on campus. 

I can tell you confidently that these are the reasons why people like me watch the criminal shows that we do. We start off trying to use them as proof about how unlikely it is that we will become victims. However, it ironically becomes a humble reminder that there are people everywhere who can make you question your safety.

This is the very reason why it is so frustrating as a female to have to explain why you do not like going places by yourself, especially when having to explain it to a man. The male privilege of this situation is being able to do everyday activities like going for a run or going to the park, not giving your safety a second thought. Girls are told from a young age to not walk outside alone at night. Girls are told when going to college not to ever set their drinks down. Girls are taught not to dress certain ways. It's the same story, but the documentaries just focus on infamous criminals when they could have very well gotten the same story from any girl on a college campus.

I say all of this to emphasize the misunderstanding between keeping girls safe and blaming them for the harm that comes to them. I also say this to reiterate the reality of the world. These shows are exactly that—shows. They are meant to show us something, and it is our job to act.