Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It’s sexual assault in Columbia, but not at the airport

A story in my local paper caught my eye this morning. It’s about a series of sexual assaults that have taken place on a set of bucolic paths that wind through a suburb called Columbia, about halfway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

The women who’ve been assaulted, four so far, were walking or running alone when they were grabbed and groped. None of the women were raped or beaten up. The culprit simply appeared on the paths, grabbed them, then ran away.

The police and the newspaper explicitly use the terms “groped” and “sexual assault.” I can’t help but wonder why behavior in one place constitutes sexual assault but the same behavior in another place doesn’t. Obviously I’m talking about the airport.

The TSA routinely grabs and gropes people. Yet those of us who accurately and correctly describe that behavior as sexual assault — and we have documented thousands of accounts of it — are dismissed and ridiculed. “What’s the big deal?” the naysayers sneer. “So somebody’s touching your body. So what? They’re not hurting you. Get over it!”

Perhaps we should tell those four women in Columbia the same thing.