Kaylee Sheppard

News recently broke of a murder and sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The woman, named Ruth George, was brutally attacked by a man in a parking garage when she ignored his catcalls.

That’s right. It happened. This happens.

We as women are constantly faced with two narratives: we must protect ourselves at all costs, but at the same time we need to learn to “smile” or “take a compliment” when we are borderline harassed by strangers on the street.

From pepper spray to wearing non-revealing clothing to always walking even a block home at night with at least one friend, we are constantly told to do everything possible to protect ourselves.

But when we ignore or call out individuals who catcall us on the street, we are told we are being rude or should take it as a compliment and lighten up.

Should we lighten up about what happened to Ruth George? Absolutely not.

I am so tired of this narrative that women have to protect themselves. Why do we not teach boys to — oh I don’t know — not attack women? Or at least not give women attention that is clearly unwanted.

I am really at a loss here. What more can women do in our nation to protect themselves from senseless attacks? We deserve the right to go out in public and not fear for our lives just as much as any man.

This story reminds me of the women on our campus. The countless stories women have shared of being stalked through the Fort. The countless Clery Act emails I have received during my time at UTK. The amount of time I have walked a block to the Pod market to pick up supplies at night while clutching my pepper spray.

Ruth George deserved better. Women deserve better. It’s time to start a real conversation on college campuses about how to not only make women feel safe but make men stop feeling like they deserve attention from women.

Kaylee Sheppard is a senior majoring in American Studies and Political Science. She can be reached at ksheppa7@vols.utk.edu.

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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