Adapted from an earlier version of this column published in 2007
I had a tremendous advantage when I was growing up.
I did not join a movement that brainwashed girls into thinking that, simply because they demanded to be called “Ms” instead of “Miss,” they had automatically become invulnerable. Nor was I taught to believe that, merely by virtue of being female, I had the right to be ignorant, oblivious, and credulous.
Unfortunately, as we read too often in today’s headlines, ignorance, obliviousness, and credulity are characteristics exhibited far too often by far too many contemporary women when they go to bars, drink themselves silly, and depart in the company of strange men. Men who, in fact, are rapists and murderers.
Consider these notorious news stories:
Jennifer Levin. Drinking in a bar. Leaves with a stranger. Is later found strangled in Central Park.
Natalee Holloway. Spends her last night in Aruba dancing at a bar. Leaves with three men. Vanishes without a trace.
Imette St. Guillen. Drinking at a bar until 4 a.m. Leaves alone. Is later found raped, brutalized, dead.
Jennifer Moore. Described by her father as "bright and funny." Last seen walking uptown in a black halter-top and white miniskirt after a night out clubbing. Found dead in a trash bin in New Jersey.
Drinking. Clubbing. Picking up strangers at bars. Passing out at fraternity parties. Trusting that being single and independent confers on them a mantle of indestructibility. All young. All female. All encouraged to believe that they were immortal, with far too few parents reminding them that they are not.
Let’s back up a bit. Once upon a time when I was of an age that boys asked girls out on dates, my father, who, to the day he died remained my father and never became my friend, pushed aside the coffee table and positioned me in the center of the living room. He stood opposite me in a threatening position, lurched at me in a feigned attack, and demanded, “What are you going to do?”
Initially, of course, my response was to fall to the floor in gales of laughter.
This parent of mine, whom all of us in the family (poor Daddy) called Father Foo, Father Bear, or some other such undignified endearment, was about as menacing as a rubber duck. He was the kind of a man whose bald spot demanded to be petted and whose cheeks positively begged to be pinched. He was dear. He was gentle. He was adorable. But not in the living room that morning. There, then, he insisted that I take notice and react as if he were a genuine threat.
So I stopped laughing and stared at him in disbelief. He said, his voice a resolute growl, “If anyone ever attacks you, you kick him right between the legs.”
This was not a father/daughter talk. This was not a father/daughter suggestion. It was a life lesson. More lessons were to follow. Lessons I absorbed when, before he would let me take a job with an employer previously unknown to him, he would do a background check. Lessons on how to research people, places, and things instead of arbitrarily imbuing them with my trust. Lessons about a big, wide, world out there not committed to accommodating my every wish and whim—a world with the potential to be both deadly and dangerous.
My father did not mince words. Not if my safety was at stake.
When I was still a teen, the single sentence he articulated most often and with the greatest urgency was, “Don’t let anybody put knock-out drops in your drink.”
Today, knock-out drops would be called date rape drugs. The best known of these insidious, inexcusable, and often-undetectable drugs are chloral hydrate mixed with alcohol and Rohypnol.
Nowadays, few parents instill in their daughters an appropriate sense of fear. Fear that would protect them from fates, not only “worse than death,” but from death itself. Nowadays, an attitude prevails, both with Mom, Dad, and their vulnerable offspring, that being female (and liberated), a woman should be able to go wherever she pleases, party until she drops, and that it is society’s responsibility to protect her.
Sorry, girls. That ain’t gonna happen. Society can design laws to preserve and protect, but society is a vague concept, and a concept cannot sit on a bar stool beside an attractive female who has allowed herself to get dead drunk. Society is not an armed guard who will shield her from harm when she wanders outside alone at four in the morning. Society cannot padlock the door and prevent Beautiful Young Thing from leaving with Dangerous Stranger, who may or may not rape, mutilate, and murder her.
Parents, warn your children. Tell them not to go to bars to meet men. Tell them not to go to parties given by toga-clad college boys they barely know. Tell them not to willingly relinquish their consciousness, their sobriety, their sense of self-preservation, their dignity, their safety…their life.
There are predators out there. Don’t let them put knockout drops in your drink.
Copyright © 2016, Shelly Reuben