By Amy Roost
When I was a freshman in college, I was raped. Some friends and I had gone to a bar (the drinking age for beer and wine in the District of Columbia was 18 at the time). At some point, I was ready to leave, but my friends weren’t, so I accepted a ride back to my dorm from three young men I’d just met.
I had been flirting with one and of them and when we got in the backseat of the car he made some advances. I had drunk too much and was feeling woozy so I asked him to please stop. But he didn’t. He pulled a knife out of his coat, held the tip of it to my jugular and pressed his finger to his lips indicating that I should be quiet.
When we arrived at my dorm, he literally kicked me out of the back seat onto the sidewalk and drove off into the night with his friends.
I tell this story, not for sympathy, but because I’ve been thinking my rape is analogous to gun control. I didn’t deserve to be raped and there is no excuse for rape. But I know that there is more than one person who will read this story and think I was at least partially to blame for what happened to me — that I should have used better judgment that fateful evening.
I could easily defend my honor using gun lobby rhetoric. I am the gun. The rapist is the shooter. I didn’t rape me. My attacker raped me. The gun didn’t kill the victims of Sandy Hook; Adam Lanza killed them. Right?
But here’s the thing: My behavior was partially to blame for my rape. My parents taught me there is evil in the world and despite this knowledge, I took the costly risk of accepting a ride home with strangers and place myself in an umcompromisingly vulnerable position: captive, outnumbered and intoxicated. I was the gun that fired a bullet straight into the heart of my innocence.
In statistics there is something called multi-variable analysis meaning that for a dependent variable (outcome) there is often more than one factor that caused it. Guns, Adam Lanza’s mental illness, etc. caused the shooting in Newtown. Sexual aggression, my imprudent actions, etc. caused my rape. A multi-linear regression analysis would allow us to test how much each variable contributed to the outcome, i.e. how much blame or causation we can assign to my behavior vs. the rapist’s aggression or guns vs. mental illness.
It is misleading and a gross over-simplification to say that my behavior had nothing to do with my rape or that guns had nothing to do with the Newtown massacre. It is obvious in both cases multiple variables were in play. The question is how do we correct for these factors? In my case, after the rape I didn’t stop drinking or going to bars. But I did use a buddy system when I went out. I stopped accepting rides from strangers; and I stopped dressing in a way that attracted unwanted attention. In other words, I stopped tugging on Superman’s cape.
It follows that we should make changes to our laws and culture that would prevent gun homicides — not hammer homicides or knife homicides, but gun homicides. If only one life had been saved — Noah’s, Grace’s or Dylan’s — wouldn’t that one life justify changing our ways and our laws? In the same way I didn’t stop going to bars in college, I’m not saying taking away everyone’s guns is the answer to gun violence.
No combination of laws will completely eliminate gun homicides just as, by virtue of being a woman, I’m still at risk for being raped despite taking additional precautions. But if it were my Stuart or Spencer or your son or daughter whose life was spared because of a law or shift in perspective that could perhaps even set in motion a butterfly effect, wouldn’t it be worth the effort and limited cost to our liberties to adjust our ways of thinking and doing things? Is there one person who can answer no to this? If there is, don’t tell me. Tell your child — to his/her face — you’d not be willing to give up some gun rights to save his/her life.
Roost works in the book publishing industry.