Cosmo Blames Assault, Abduction and Murder on the Victim!

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In the February Cosmo, yeah, the one with Dakota Fanning on the cover causing some controversy over an underage woman surrounded by sex cover lines, there’s a crime piece on page 159 titled “Deadly Decisions: How Smart Women Put themselves at Risk.” The cover line for this story is “Women and Danger: How this Decision Could Cost you Your Life.”

These are just the type of fear-mongering crime stories that tick me off. Unfortunately this one is written by former New York sex crimes prosecutor turned novelist Linda Farstein.

And that probably should explain the scare tactics—more murder-mayhem material rather than something helpful.

The piece starts off by telling us there’s been a number of tragic and shocking savvy, bright young women disappearing  today, many of whom are later found in shallow graves or dumpsters, others who haven’t been located.

The story tells us these were vibrant women with promising lives, which yeah, most any woman abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered usually is. There’s where they draw you in while you think, ‘I’m a vibrant woman with a promising life, too.’ Fairstein claims her goal was to change public attitudes that these women were somehow responsible for their own deaths–because they weren’t. Good so far.

However, she then goes on to tell us about three cases where the women make a misstep, a poorly thought out decision or some fuck up that basically ends their lives. Hence, sort of blaming the victim, no?

Case in point, ditching your friends at night. The first case follows a 19-year woman planning to attend college who is out at a club with friends when she goes to the restroom. Yes, the restroom. She left her purse, keys and belongings at the table with her friends.  Yet she never returns.

The story tells us the alcohol she drank must have blurred her thinking because video surveillance has her leaving the club with one guy. Minutes later she is on videotape at a hotel a few blocks away where she runs into another guy, the killer.

Though the piece says the misstep was leaving friends, I think not. She went to the bathroom for Christ’s sake, and who knows what happened after that to get her out of that club. She obviously never intended to ditch her friends!

The next poor decision is not struggling with your abductor. The second case shows us a 20-year old nursing student who is abducted in her own yard at the edge of a wooded area, and led into the woods by a man in her driveway. Her brother witnesses this from inside but mistakenly thinks it is her boyfriend until he finds blood in the driveway and the woman goes missing.

Farstein assumes the abductor led her quietly away and the woman did not struggle. Yet we have no idea if the woman knew the man, if she was helping him search for something, if she was rendered incapable of struggling via an injury indicated from the blood in the driveway. Again, we blame the woman for not struggling?

The third deadly mistake is storming off after a public fight with a guy, and we are told about a 26-year old model that got into a shouting match with her boyfriend at a Miami club. The bouncers threw out the boyfriend.

Her body is later found burnt in trash bin. Farstein assumes she may have flirted with other guys to make her boyfriend jealous, even though he was no longer there, or that she left with a stranger who offered to bring her to her boyfriend. Uh seems unlikely. But there is no evidence of any of that. The woman could have simply left and fallen victim to any number of situations, and yet her death is blamed on having a public argument.

The story also includes a sidebar on the hidden forces behind these bad choices, which include:

-You feel invincible.

-The media has numbed you to the reality about stories such as these.

-You’ve been sheltered by your parents.

Oy. How about some real advice like not getting too inebriated to take care of yourself, using the buddy system to go out and always being aware of your surroundings instead of these bogus reasons.

And if women’s mags could put the kibosh on victim-blaming, that would be great, too!

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About stilettonation

Jennifer Nelson is a writer working on Stiletto Nation: Inside the Perfumed Pages of the Women's Magazine Industry to be published Fall of 2012 by Seal Press. Stop in and read about the great, the awful and the insane in the fragrant pages of the women's glossies.

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