Excusing Violence Against Women With “She was a hooker”

“From how she was dressed, I think she may have been a hooker or something,” he said, brushing it off in a very familiar way, his voice doing that thing men’s voices do when justifying violence against women. I asked if he’d seen what happened to the woman around the corner, her brown body spread out on the once-brown bricks now besmirched with her blood. For nine seconds I thought she was dead, then her hand moved, then her feet, then she moaned a few words in Zulu, but not loud enough to be heard by those I assume could have translated for me.

It was mid afternoon. She’d been stabbed, and the river of blood leading to the ocean she was creating was half a kilometer long with some parts chunky, and some parts already fading, having been stepped on by those who didn’t want to get too involved, but took photos anyway. I walked along side that river, and looked at the faces of the men, some tribesmen, who stood idly by their cars, listening to music, watching a body of water form.

“Probably some man who didn’t want to pay her, or some pissed off lover,” he said, my face asking for the reason it was me who had to notify the cops and not him, who apparently saw her while she was still stumbling, holding the hole in her chest, probably knowing it was more important to hold that one than the one on in her abdomen. “Did she fall someplace,” he asked. Why didn’t he know she fell someplace just around the corner, just across from the mango and banana man who never stopped selling his goods to call anyone. “Did she fall someplace,” he asked with a look on his face that suggested he was asking for a piece of gum; casual.

“She fell just around the corner. Just across from the mango and banana man you frequent. Next to that abandoned and neglected building. She was there abandoned and neglected,” I told him. I thought she was dead until her hand moved. Suddenly I was at 357 Rose Avenue in Daytona Beach, Florida, and I was 20 years old and I was watching my neighbor get kicked down the stairs by a boyfriend who seemed to love her more when her dark skin was made red, and her fingers were in splints. I helped her once, but she came back, so I never helped her again, and I think I carry that guilt with me now, so I help now.

There was one woman there with me, hovering over the slow-moving and bloody body of the woman on the red bricks. She’d come, probably, from someplace fun, someplace laughing, someplace where even though drinks were cheap, she only had two. I could see the remnants of joy on my curve of her lips, hidden deeply behind the panic over the woman that could have been her. She and I stood there, wondering why there were no police there yet if the station was just around the corner. Why had the two men, whose face I didn’t see, stood there seemingly long before she and I and didn’t call the police. We called the police, we called the ambulance, and she called the two men “assholes” for doing nothing but staring.

“I hope she’s okay,” he said, probably genuinely. But what if she’d died on those bricks beside that building after that stumbling half a kilometer walk she did while being neglected by those who found her movements as entertaining as the music to which she moved? “Honestly, I don’t know,” I said, my voice doing that thing guilt-trippers and manipulators’ voices do when trying to point out foolishness, ignorance, rape culture, asinine culturally-justified violence against women, Casey Affleck, Nate Parker, and all other bullshit.

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